TEHRAN – Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri urged Kuwait to keep trying to build bridges between Iran and Saudi Arabia to encourage a rapprochement between two regional heavyweights backing opposite sides in Syria’s conflict, Reuters reported.
Wedged between three big regional powers - Shia Muslim Iran, Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia-led Iraq at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, Kuwait has tried to maintain good relations with all three in recent years. The oil-exporting Persian Gulf Arab state is a Sunni Muslim monarchy but has a sizeable Shia minority active in politics and business.
All of this makes Kuwait a potential go-between in the intractable conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - whose strongest regional ally is Iran - and Saudi-backed Sunni rebels trying to overthrow him.
Berri spoke during a visit to Kuwait two days after Lebanon formed a new government in a possible step towards curbing the sectarian violence that has spilled over into Lebanon from neighboring Syria.
“I requested that all the (Persian) Gulf (Arab) countries and in particular Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad play a mediating role between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Berri told the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai in the remarks published on Tuesday.
“The emir has worked and will work in this context, and he will try as much as possible to bring together the points of view,” Berri said, referring to Kuwait’s leader.
Iran has supported the Syrian government in his battle against armed rebels. And Saudi Arabia, for its part, has provided funding and support to various rebel groups, including the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition and more radical groups.
Berri is the highest ranking Shia in Lebanese officialdom and an ally of Iran and Assad.
“My larger goal on the topic of Iranian-Saudi rapprochement ... is for the benefit of Lebanon and of Syria,” said Berri. He blamed the breakdown of peace talks in Geneva last week on Iran’s exclusion from the conference.
“It would have been better to invite Iran to Geneva and to have Saudi-Iranian rapprochement,” he said.
The United Nations rescinded its invitation to Iran to participate in the “Geneva 2” talks at the last minute under pressure from the opposition delegation, which threatened to withdraw altogether.
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