Kerry Mends Saudi Fences Following Iranian Overtures, Syria Inaction

U.S. diplomacy to Iran, inaction in Syria leaves vital ally Saudi Arabia fuming.

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud upon his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 3, 2013.
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Secretary of State John Kerry remains on a goodwill tour of the Middle East in an attempt to repair America's image abroad and reassure allies that recent overtures to Iran and moves in Syria won't change existing friendships.

[READ: The Game Saudi Arabia and Iran Are Playing in Syria]

While visiting the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, Kerry assured the Saudis that they remain a "very, very important ally" and "the senior player" in the Middle East. The Gulf nation has been openly critical of recent diplomatic groundwork between the U.S. and Iran, a known rival of the Saudis and continued opponent in the proxy war in Syria.

Reuters reports Kerry told the embassy staff U.S. diplomats have "very important things to talk about to make sure the Saudi-U.S. relationship is on track rolling forward, and doing the things that we need to accomplish."

The U.S. continues to rely on Saudi Arabia for logistical and political support in the ongoing political strife in Egypt as well as the Syrian civil war, well into its third year of bloodshed.

Kerry's remarks follow the Saudi's open criticism of Western democracy in recent months. The Arab nation refused a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council earlier in October, citing an international inability to reach any peaceful solution in Syria. An Oct. 18 statement from the Saudi foreign ministry claimed the "world stands idly by" and allows "the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by chemical weapons."

Saudi Arabia also remains against Iran's involvement in proposed Syrian peace talks slated to take place in Geneva some time in November.

[ALSO: U.N. Had No Warning of Saudi Snub on Security Council]

A Saudi Arabian official said he hopes Kerry's sentiments will make a change, adding there have been "a lot of problems [and] misunderstanding between the two countries.

"They have been our allies for 70 years," Abdullah al-Askar, chairman of a governmental foreign affairs advisory council told Reuters. "Gulf states want to know what America means to do in going further with relations with the Iranians, which may be at the cost of Gulf states."

On the first part of his trip in Egypt, Kerry said the U.S. is deeply involved in the Middle East peace process and is "essential to the ability of that peace process to be able to be resolved." "[The U.S.] will be there for the defense of our friends and our allies. We will be there for Saudi Arabia, for the Emirates, for the Qataris, for the Jordanians, for the Egyptians and others. We will not allow those countries to be attacked from outside," he said.

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