HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah meets Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday. — AFP
HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah meets Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday. — AFP

KUWAIT: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in his first foreign trip after the landmark nuclear accord, urged Tehran’s Gulf Arab neighbors to cooperate to fight against terrorism, but stressed that the Islamic republic’s policy will not change. “What is needed in this region is not a change in Iranian policy but a change in the policy of some countries which want conflict and war in this region,” Zarif told a press conference after meeting HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah and holding talks with Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah.

He brushed aside claims that Iran is interfering in the internal affairs of several Arab countries and said that Tehran has always stood with the people of this region in fighting against the common threat, which is “terrorism, extremism and sectarianism”. “Based on this understanding, our message to the states of the region is that we should fight to confront the common threat,” Zarif said. He said Iran extends a hand of cooperation to the region as “Iran seriously believes that in our region there are common interests and common threats and we have to cooperate”.

“I chose Kuwait for my first foreign trip (after the nuclear deal) to announce Iran’s intentions to improve its relations with neighbors,” he said. “We are open in this respect and extend our hands and declare that we are ready to cooperate,” Zarif said. The Iranian chief diplomat however said that to achieve strong cooperation, there must be a common resolve. “I can declare that all officials in the Islamic republic of Iran have this resolve and I am convinced that Kuwait also has it and I hope that it will be available in all countries,” Zarif said.

The minister however strongly criticized the Saudi-led coalition war on the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying that the war should stop immediately and dialogue should start without foreign interference. Zarif also said that Iran will not change its policy in Syria and Iraq, insisting that Iran supports the people in this region, adding that all should cooperate against terrorist organizations.

He said Iran’s timely intervention in Iraq prevented Islamic State jihadists from capturing the capital Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan. Zarif also categorically denied as “baseless” an announcement by Bahrain late Saturday that it had foiled an arms smuggling attempt by two Iranian agents on a boat off Bahrain’s coast. “I openly say the (Bahraini) claims are totally wrong,” he said. “The timing of the announcement is an attempt to prevent any progress in cooperation between Iran and other Gulf states,” Zarif said. The Bahraini interior ministry said that it detained two people and a large quantity of C4 explosives and arms coming from Iran. Zarif’s tour will also take him to Qatar and Iraq, but he is not visiting Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, two key coalition members in the war against the Yemeni rebels.

By Staff Reporter