US Secretary of State John Kerry steps aboard his aircraft after meeting with members of Egypt's government in Cairo, on November 3, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry steps aboard his aircraft after meeting with members of Egypt's government in Cairo, on November 3, 2013 © Jason Reed - Pool/AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry steps aboard his aircraft after meeting with members of Egypt's government in Cairo, on November 3, 2013
AFP
Last updated: November 4, 2013

Kerry lands in Riyadh to ease tensions

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia Sunday hoping to repair ties with America's longstanding ally, which have frayed over the Syrian conflict and US outreach to Iran.

The top US diplomat was already on his second stop of an 11-day trip which has become an exercise in damage control, as regional turbulence stirs tensions with longtime US partners.

Saudi Arabia, locked in a decades-long rivalry with Iran, is concerned that proposed Syrian peace talks could leave a Tehran-backed regime in Damascus and that a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations could see US-Iranian relations restored.

Earlier Sunday in Cairo, Kerry acknowledged that while there might be differences over "tactics" in ending the Syrian conflict, the end goal for the United States and its allies was the same-- a transition of power.

Riyadh, one of the main backers of the Syrian opposition, was reportedly angered when US President Barack Obama last month put on hold threatened military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"There are some countries ... that wanted the United States to do one thing in respect to Syria and we have done something else," Kerry acknowledged during a joint press conference with Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy.

But he insisted: "Those differences on individual tactics on policy do not mean a difference on (the) fundamental goal of the policy.

"We all share the same goal... that is the salvation of the state of Syria and a transition government put in place...that can give the people of Syria the opportunity to choose their future."

Kerry also said the United States would stick with its friends as they navigate the turmoil unleashed by the Arab Spring, which saw former US allies toppled in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen and the rise of powerful new extremist groups in Libya and Syria.

"We will be there for Saudi Arabia, for the Emirates, for Qataris, for the Jordanians, for the Egyptians and others. We will not allow those countries to be attacked from outside. We will stand with them," he told reporters.

Kerry was to be greeted Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and have his first meeting since becoming secretary of state in February with Saudi King Abdullah on Monday.

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