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Saudi king warns UN of Iranian threat, backs US peace efforts in Middle East

Salman castigates Iranian attempts to sow ‘chaos, extremism and religious fanaticism’; calls to disarm Hezbollah; stops short of directly endorsing Israel-UAE-Bahrain accords

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/Pool/AFP)
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/Pool/AFP)

In an address to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called upon world leaders to confront Iranian nuclear aspirations as a united front and expressed support for US Middle East peace efforts.

In his pre-recorded speech, Salman said that his country’s stance on Iran was one of peace, “but to no avail.”

Salman said that Iran used the 2015 nuclear agreement to “intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks and use terrorism [to produce] nothing but chaos, extremism and sectarianism.

“Our experience with the Iranian regime has taught us that partial solutions or appeasement will not stop its threats to international peace and security. A comprehensive solution and a firm international position are required to ensure fundamental solutions to the Iranian regime’s attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile program,” Salman said.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani addressing the nation after a nuclear agreement was announced in Vienna, in Tehran, Iran, on July 14, 2015. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The landmark 2015 nuclear agreement promised Iran economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. In 2018 US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord, which he has repeatedly denounced and has charged Iran with flouting.

Salman also referenced US peace efforts in the Middle East by saying that “the kingdom supports all efforts aimed at advancing the peace process.”

Salman did not explicitly express support of the recent Israel-UAE-Bahrain normalization accords spearheaded by the Trump administration.

The Saudi Arabian royal family is reportedly split over normalizing ties with Israel following the landmark agreement, though the two nations are believed to have had clandestine ties for years. According to the Wall Street Journal, King Salman has come into conflict with his son, de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the latter said to be in favor of formal ties.

Abu Dhabi and Manama’s moves to normalize are seen as having likely received Riyadh’s blessing. Saudi Arabi has also announced it will allow flights between Israel and those nations to pass over its airspace, another signal of its openness to consider steps toward normal relations.

The Saudi king on Wednesday reaffirmed his position in favor of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“We support the efforts of the current US administration to achieve peace in the Middle East, by bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis together to the negotiation table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement,” he said.

Salman ended his remarks by condemning Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, noting its affiliation with Iran and blaming it for the recent explosion in the port of Beirut.

“This terrorist organization must be disarmed,” he said.

With COVID-19 still limiting global movement, just one representative from each of the 193 UN members has been allowed to attend the General Assembly, and some 160-170 heads of state and government must address the international body via videocall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the General Assembly in a pre-recorded video on Tuesday, September 29.

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