As President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, called on the newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to make a fundamental change in the country's foreign policy and stop support for "destabilizing forces" and end ballistic missile tests.
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.
The U.S. secretary of state also expressed hope that Rouhani will carry out democratic reforms during his second term.
Iranian authorities usually take any comment on their domestic policies with agitation.
"We hope that if Rouhani wanted to change Iran's relationship with the rest of the world, those are the things he could do", Tillerson said in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where was accompanying President Trump.
The new American president had vowed to be tough with Iran during the US presidential campaign and had put the future of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran in doubt, calling it a "bad deal". However, in his first months in office he has not taken any steps to scrap the agreement.
However, former US officials and analysts expect the US to keep putting pressure on Iran over its missile program and what it sees as Tehran's destabilizing role in the Middle East.
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.
Talking “at the right time”
Tillerson's comments seem to reinforce this expectation, although he left the door open to further talks with Iran.
Tillerson said 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.
he also mentioned that 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."
With reporting by AP, Reuters and AFP