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Tillerson Says It Is Likely He Will Eventually Speak With His Iranian Counterpart

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says it is likely he will eventually speak to his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, "at the right time," although he has no plans to talk to him at this point.

Tillerson’s comments came on May 20 in Riyadh during President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the first leg in the president’s first foreign trip.

It also came a day after moderate Iranian President Hassan Rohani was reelected by a wide margin, defeating a more hard-line opponent – a victory that could reinvigorate efforts for an economic and diplomatic thaw with the West.

Tillerson said a centerpiece of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia is to curb any threats to the region posed by Iran.

Sunni-led, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and mainly Shi’ite Muslim Iran are bitter rivals for influence in the region.

Tillerson, when asked whether he would meet with Iran’s Zarif, said he would "not shut out anyone who wants to talk" or have a productive conversation.

"In all likelihood,” he added, "we will talk at the right time."

Speaking in a joint briefing, Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir criticized Iran for its support of foreign fighters in countries such as Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, and for its nuclear ambitions.

Tillerson called on Rohani to end Tehran's support and financing of terrorist groups, or what Tillerson called "destabilizing forces that exist in this region."

The United States and other critics in the West accuse Tehran of sponsoring international terrorism and destabilizing the region, and Iran is still targeted by U.S. sanctions over its weapons programs and perceived rights violations.

Trump was greeted warmly during his Saudi visit, and U.S. and Saudi officials signed at least $350 billion in business transactions on the first day -- including a $110 billion defense and military deal to bolster the Saudi military.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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