Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council on May 14, 2014 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hagel arrived in the Saudi Arabia, the first leg of a regional tour focusing on Iran's nuclear programme and Syria's civil war. AFP PHOTO/POOL/MANDEL NGAN Image Credit: AFP

Jeddah: Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz called on Wednesday for stronger military cooperation between the United States and Gulf states whose security he said is threatened.

The prince made the remarks during a meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah between visiting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“We meet today amid persistent threats to the region’s security and stability,” which “necessitate coordination in politics and defence strategies of our countries,” said Salman.

“The security of our countries and our people are in danger,” added the prince, who also holds the kingdom’s defence portfolio.

Salman said among the issues of concern were “political crises” in some Arab states, as well as “attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and meddling of certain states” in the internal affairs of others, in an apparent reference to Iran.

He voiced hope that “cooperation continues” with the United States, stressing “historic and strategic relations” between Washington and GCC countries have “contributed to cementing security and stability in the region.”

US officials have struggled to reassure Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, over an interim nuclear deal with Iran that the Saudis worry will embolden Tehran.

The GCC has also been dissatisfied with Washington’s cautious approach to arming rebel forces in Syria.

The US-GCC meeting was expected to offer Hagel a chance “to underscore US security commitments in the Middle East and to reinforce the United States’ unstinting policy of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and further destabilising the region,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said last week.

The gathering would also focus on coordinating “air and missile defence, maritime security and cyber defence,” he said.

After his stop in Saudi Arabia, Hagel is to head to Jordan for talks on the raging civil war in its neighbour Syria.