Share This Page

Kerry, Saudi counterpart deny big rift

| Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Secretary of State John Kerry and his Saudi counterpart, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, strongly denied any significant breach of the U.S.-Saudi relationship on Monday, while acknowledging differences on tactics, particularly over Syria.

Although he emphasized U.S. commitment to a negotiated settlement in Syria, Kerry said at a news conference with al-Faisal that the United States will “continue to support the opposition” fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

“We will not stand idly by while Assad continues to use weapons enormously disproportionate to those in the possession of the opposition in order to kill ... women and children,” the chief U.S. diplomat said.

Overriding his interpreter to speak in fluent English, al-Faisal said: “If one is making a moral choice to intervene or not to intervene, what is that choice going to be? Do I let the tragedy continue, or do I help if I can?”

Not only are scores of thousands of people being killed, al-Faisal said, but Syria's rich cultural heritage is being destroyed.

Kerry met with Saudi King Abdullah II. Kerry said before the visit that he wanted to “make sure that the Saudi Arabian-U.S. relationship is on track,” despite deep differences over high-profile policy issues in the region, including Syria, Iran and Egypt.

“The Saudis are very, very important to all of these things,” Kerry said during a stop at the U.S. Embassy. “The Saudis have an ability to be able to influence a lot of the things that we also care about and we work together on.”

Kerry's visit to this desert kingdom was hastily appended to a scheduled North Africa trip when the Saudis became increasingly public in their disapproval of the Obama administration's cautious stance toward Syria's civil war, its negotiations with Iran and its failure to fully support the Egyptian military that in the summer overthrew an elected government.

Along with Israel, the Arab nations are concerned that the United States will strike a nuclear deal not to their liking with Iran, Saudi Arabia's main regional rival and Israel's principal outside threat.

From Saudi Arabia, Kerry was to travel Monday evening to Poland. He will return to the Middle East, stopping in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. Before returning to Washington on Nov. 12, Kerry will visit Algeria and Morocco.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.