Iran can work with Saudis on Syria, IS: foreign minister

Munich (Germany) (AFP) –


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that he believes his country could work with regional rival Saudi Arabia on the Syrian conflict and common threats such as the Islamic State group.

"We believe there is nothing in our region that would exclude Iran and Saudi working together for a better future for all of us," Zarif told an audience at the Munich Security Conference.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a bloody competition for influence across much of the Middle East, including support for opposing sides in the wars of Syria and Yemen.

But Zarif said there was room to identify common challenges, particularly jihadists such as the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra.

"Extremists... are as much a threat to our brothers in Saudi Arabia as they are to the rest of the region. We are bound by a common destiny," he said.

"Iran and Saudi Arabia can have shared interests in Syria -- a stable Syria, a no-terrorist Syria, a Syria that is multi-ethnic, multi-religious. We can all agree on that."

He criticised Saudi Arabia for trying to exclude Iran from peace talks.

"Unfortunately Saudi Arabia has followed a practice of exclusion to the point where it tried to exclude Iran from the talks. It was big news when my friend (Saudi Foreign Minister) Adel al-Jubeir decided to come to Vienna in my presence," said Zarif.

"That shouldn't have been big news, that's only natural."

He also called on the United States to remove more of its sanctions on Iran in the wake of last year's nuclear deal.

"Iran is doing its share by implementing the agreement ahead of time," said Zarif.

"The United States will gain politically by making sure that this agreement has enough benefits for all sides, in order that (the agreement) remains in place and has longevity."