Kerry touts upset Saudis as 'senior players'

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday called Saudi Arabia a "senior player" in the Arab world, a description aimed at repairing frayed relations with the longtime U.S. ally. 

Kerry met with King Abdullah after Riyadh turned down a seat on the U.N. Security Council, citing the world body's failure to do anything about the violence in Syria. The Saudis blame the Obama administration for failing to back the Syrian rebels more forcefully and for its diplomatic outreach to Iran, Saudi Arabia's main regional rival.

“The Saudis are very, very important” to peace and stability in the Middle East, Kerry said in public remarks to U.S. Embassy staff in Riyadh. “The Saudis are really the sort of senior player, if you will, within the Arab world, together with Egypt. Egypt is in more of a transition, so Saudi Arabia’s role is that much more important.” 

Kerry went on to reaffirm the Obama administration's commitment to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

The Riyadh visit was initially scheduled to be the first stop on Kerry's 10-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, highlighting the importance of the Saudi-U.S. relationship. The secretary ended up stopping in Cairo first on Sunday, however, where he met with Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who led the toppling of President Mohammed Morsi and the subsequent deadly crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

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