Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Muslim nations to confront with “all means of force and firmness” recent attacks in the Persian Gulf that U.S. and some Arab officials have blamed on Iran.
Ibrahim al-Assaf made the comments at a preparatory meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, ahead of a trio of summits in the kingdom’s city of Mecca.
Saudi Arabia hastily called for the meetings in response to the spike in tensions with its key rival, Iran. That King Salman could quickly bring regional leaders and heads of state to Mecca so rapidly reflects the kingdom’s weight in the region and its desire to project a unified position on Iran.
Saudi Arabia will seek to use the Mecca gatherings to send a clear and powerful message to Iran, which itself is also a member of the OIC.
In his opening remarks, al-Assaf said the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in recent weeks threaten the global economy and endanger regional and international security.
“We should confront it with all means of force and firmness,” he said.
An Iranian official was at the OIC meeting where al-Assaf spoke Thursday, but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not attend.
Iran denies being involved in the attacks, which come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S. The crisis has root in the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw last year from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The first of the three summits will start with a meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council on Thursday evening.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani is expected to attend, making it the highest-level visit to Saudi Arabia by a Qatari official since 2017, when the kingdom and three other Arab states cut off ties with the tiny energy-rich Gulf state over its foreign policies.
The GCC meeting will be immediately followed with an emergency summit of the 22-nation Arab League, minus Syria, whose membership remains suspended.
The third and final summit, on Friday, is expected to focus largely on Palestinian statehood and independence. It will bring together leaders from the 57-nation OIC, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.