US Secretary of State John Kerry today urged Iran to help end the wars raging in Yemen and Syria, criticising the Islamic republic’s “destabilising actions” in the Middle East.
On the first visit by a US chief diplomat to Bahrain since 2010, Kerry also told authorities in Manama accused of discriminating against the country’s Shiite majority that respect for human rights was “essential”.
Kerry was also to meet his other Gulf Arab counterparts later today, two weeks before President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend a summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh when Washington’s Middle East policy is likely to come under the microscope.
Speaking during a joint news conference with Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Kerry condemned “the destabilising actions of Iran, which the United States takes very seriously”.
Kerry said Tehran should “help us end the war in Yemen… help us end the war in Syria, not intensify, and help us to be able to change the dynamics of this region”. Tehran and the Gulf states back opposition sides in Syria and Yemen.
Last year Iran struck a landmark deal with world powers scaling back its nuclear programme, which has led to the lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic republic.
Sheikh Khalid, whose government accuses Iran of stoking persistent protests among the kingdom’s Shiites demanding an end to Sunni minority rule, echoed Kerry’s call.
Iran’s “interventions through proxies in several parts of our region (are) continuing unabated,” the Bahraini foreign minister said.
“We want to see them help” in trying to “reach a political solution” in war-ravaged countries but “yes, we do want to see Iran change its foreign policy,” he said, speaking alongside Kerry.
Tehran argues that it is Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies that are sowing instability in the region with their air strikes in Yemen and support to the opposition in Syria.
All the Gulf Arab states, apart from Oman, are taking part in a Saudi-led coalition that has been battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen since March last year, in a war which the United Nations says has killed around 6,300 people.
Human Rights Watch said today that bombs supplied by the United States were used in coalition air strikes on a market in Yemen that killed at least 97 civilians including children last month.
Asked to comment on the report, Kerry said he did not have “solid information” on weapons used in Yemen.