The United States will work with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf to fortify their shared defences against external threats such as Iran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday at the inaugural meeting in Riyadh of a new multilateral Gulf-US security forum.
“The commitment of the United States to the people and the nations of the Gulf is rock-solid and unwavering,” Clinton told foreign ministers from longstanding allies and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
“Our strong bilateral relationships are a rock of stability in the region,” she said, according to the Agence France Presse.
More from GlobalPost: Gulf countries sever diplomatic relations with Syria
Saturday’s meeting comes as the White House moves to deepen its ties with Gulf Arab nations, whose geography and oil reserves have made them crucial partners in US defense and energy security.
Clinton outlined a range of common strategic concerns on which she called for coordinated cooperation in her prepared remarks, “including preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and curbing its interference in the affairs of its neighbors.”
Sunni-led Gulf Arab states accuse Shi-ite Tehran of supporting a Shi’ite uprising in Bahraia and of stoking unrest among Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority, according to Reuters.
In a nod to the GCC states’ concerns over their regional rival’s controversial uranium enrichment program, Clinton looked to taking “practical and specific steps to strengthen our mutual security, such as helping our militaries improve interoperability, cooperate on maritime security and missile defense, and coordinate responses to crises.”
According to the Associated Press, US officials have said it is a priority for Washington to assist the GCC in building a “regional missile defense architecture” against what they view as an impending nuclear missile threat from Iran.
On Friday US President Barack Obama approved the introduction of fresh sanctions allowing Washington to take measures against foreign banks that still deal with Iranian oil, the BBC reports.
More from GlobalPost: Hillary Clinton discusses Syria with Saudi king
The US also suspects that Tehran is sending arms to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to help him put down a pre-democracy movement that has claimed more than 9,000 lives since erupting a year ago.
Having met with the king and foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s most powerful member and closest US partner, on Friday to discuss the Syria crisis, Clinton said Saturday that she looked forward to talks on “ending the bloodshed in Syria and supporting the peaceful transitions underway in North Africa and across the region."
More on GlobalPost: Syria death toll reaches 9,000 people killed