Saudi Arabia’s King Salman opened an emergency summit of Arab leaders in Mecca with a call for the international community to use “all means to stop the Iranian regime from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”
The king, in his May 30 speech, accused Iran of “harboring global and regional terrorist entities and threatening international waterways.”
The summit in Islam’s holiest city, which began on May 30 but stretched into the early morning of May 31, comes as tensions between Iran and the United States and its Arab allies rise to new heights, raising fears of a possible armed conflict.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, backed by the United States, is an arch-rival of Shi’ite-majority Iran and competes for influence in the region.
Tensions have risen following attacks on oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia and against oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which the United States and many Arab states have blamed on Iran or its proxies in the region. Tehran denies any involvement in the incidents.
A communique by Persian Gulf Arab nations at the summit supported the right of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. to defend their interests in the face of the attacks.
Saudi Arabia earlier in the month called for the Mecca summit to help project a unified position by Muslim and Arab nations against Iran.
However, there was not total unanimity among the Arab states at the summit, with Iraq saying it objected to the Arab communique.
President Barham Salih of Iraq, which has good relations with both the West and Tehran, told Arab leaders that the security and stability of Iran is in the interest of all Muslim and Arab states.
“We do not hope that its security is targeted because we share 1,400 kilometers of border and a number of relations [with Iran],” he said.
“Honestly, the security and stability of a neighboring Islamic country is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states.”
Iraq has offered to mediate between the United States and Iran to bring down tensions in the region.
Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since the United States a year ago pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran that curbed the country’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
Since then, Washington has reimposed sanctions, stepped up its rhetoric, and beefed up its military presence in the Middle East, prompting growing concerns of a possible military conflict with Iran.
Nevertheless, U.S. President Donald Trump this week said the United States was not “looking to hurt Iran at all.”
“We’re not looking for regime change — I just want to make that clear,” Trump said. “We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”
Another summit of Arab nations is scheduled in Mecca on May 31, focusing mainly on Palestinian hopes for statehood and independence.