Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally, is hosting three high-level summits of Gulf Arab leaders in Mecca, hastily convened after a spike in tensions between the kingdom and its rival Iran.

This handout photo taken and released by the Saudi Royal Palace on May 31, 2019 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz addressing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held at al Safa Royal Palace in the Saudi city of Mecca.
This handout photo taken and released by the Saudi Royal Palace on May 31, 2019 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz addressing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held at al Safa Royal Palace in the Saudi city of Mecca. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Thursday ratcheted up the rhetoric against arch-nemesis Iran, calling on Gulf Arab states to confront its "criminal" actions after a series of attacks sparked fears of a regional conflagration.

The king's remarks at the start of an emergency Gulf summit in the holy city of Mecca came a day after hawkish US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Iran was almost certainly behind this month's sabotage of four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE coast. Tehran has rejected the charge.

Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels meanwhile have stepped up drone attacks on the kingdom – one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.

"The Iranian regime's interference in the internal affairs of the countries of the region, development of nuclear and missile programs, and its threats to freedom of international shipping are a threat to global oil supply," the Saudi king told a gathering of Gulf Arab leaders in Mecca.

Its "recent criminal acts... require that all of us work seriously to preserve the security... of GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries," the king added, referring to the attacks on Gulf oil installations.

Iran rejects 'baseless' accusations

Iran on Friday rejected what it called "baseless" accusations made at an Arab summit, saying Saudi had joined the United States and Israel in a "hopeless" effort to mobilise regional opinion against Tehran, state media reported.

"Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi... rejected the baseless accusations by the heads of certain Arab countries ... and said 'We see the Saudi effort to mobilise (regional) opinion as part of the hopeless process followed by America and the Zionist regime against Iran'," state news agency IRNA said.

TRT World speaks to journalist Jacob Greaves on Mecca summit.

Arab leaders align

Saudi Arabia is hosting emergency Gulf and Arab summits and a meeting of heads of state from Islamic nations.

Qatar's prime minister, Kuwait's emir and Abu Dhabi's crown prince were among the leaders present at the talks, which were also attended by Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Riyadh called the talks to discuss the stand-off with Iran and ways of isolating Tehran amid fears of a military confrontation.

On the eve of the talks, Riyadh blasted what it called Iranian "interference" across the region and demanded "firmness" over attacks on Gulf oil tankers and pipelines.

Iraq opposes final statement from meeting

Iraq opposed on Friday a final statement, released by Arab countries at the emergency meeting, which condemned Iran's "interference" in other countries' affairs, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a speech broadcast live on television.

Iraq's President Barham Salih said the security and stability of Iran is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states.

Salih described Iran as a Muslim country and neighbour to Iraq.

"We do not hope that its security is targeted because we share 1,400 kilometres of border and a number of relations," he said, referring to Iran. "Honestly, the security and stability of a neighbouring Islamic country is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states."

The statement also said Saudi Arabia has all the rights to defend its territory following drone strikes launched by Yemen's Houthi group against two oil pumping stations in the kingdom earlier this month. 

TRT World's Tarek Cherkaoui has more.

White House's Palestine plan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made an appeal to Arab leaders to reject a White House plan for the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

Abbas reiterated that the Palestinian leadership is boycotting a meeting next month in Bahrain being organised by the White House.

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner seeks to rally Arab Gulf states to back economic initiatives for Palestinians at the Bahrain meeting, but Palestinian officials have described the plan as economic blackmail. 

King Salman, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el Sisi and Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber al Sabah expressed support for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

TRT World's Sarah Balter has more details.

'Desire change in behaviour' 

Tensions in the region spiked after the four ships were damaged in a mysterious sabotage attack off the coast of the emirate of Fujairah on May 12.

The vessels were attacked using "naval mines almost certainly from Iran", Bolton told a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

"There's no doubt in anybody's mind in Washington who's responsible for this," he said in a clear reference to Iran.

The new war of words between Tehran and Washington follows a US military buildup that includes the deployment of an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and 1,500 more troops to the region.

Bolton, however, said the additional US forces were sent to the Middle East as a "deterrent" and that Washington's response would be prudent.

Regional tensions have grown since Trump's administration reimposed sanctions against Iran after Washington unilaterally pulled out of a multilateral 2015 nuclear accord signed with the Islamic republic.

But Trump appeared to soften his hawkish tone towards Tehran, saying during a visit to Japan on Monday that his government does not seek "regime change".

Source: TRTWorld and agencies