May 25, 2017

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah said on Thursday Saudi Arabia was on a losing path to more bloodshed in its struggle with Iran and instead urged Riyadh to seek dialogue and negotiations with Tehran.

People watch Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as he appears on a screen during a live broadcast to speak to his supporters at an event marking Resistance and Liberation Day in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hassan Abdallah

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed group, said Riyadh aimed to pull the United States into its conflict with Tehran after a summit where President Donald Trump signalled firm backing for Saudi Arabia while criticising Iran.

Nasrallah’s group is designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States.

“I advise Saudi to set aside struggle, hatred and war. Your only solution for the sake of all Muslims, the whole region … is dialogue with Iran and to negotiate with Iran,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

“This path you are taking will only lead to spending billions more dollars and spilling more blood and you will be the ones who lose. You will fail,” he said.

Rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is fuelling conflicts across the region, including the war in Syria where Hezbollah’s powerful armed wing has played a critical role fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking at the Riyadh summit, Trump said the Iran was responsible for instability in the region and was funding, arming and training militias that spread destruction and chaos.

Trump signed a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia during his visit.

Trump’s policy marks a repudiation of the regional policy of his predecessor Barack Obama, whose administration held the first direct talks with Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Although Washington and Tehran were still a long way from normalising their relations, Obama reached an accord to lift sanctions in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme, which Trump condemned as “the worst deal ever signed”.

Nasrallah said the goal of the Riyadh summit was to convince the United States “to intervene in direct confrontation” with “Iran and the resistance axis” – a reference to an Iran-backed regional alliance including Hezbollah.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to fight Israeli forces that had invaded Lebanon. Nasrallah was speaking on the anniversary of Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Tensions have climbed in recent months between Israel and Hezbollah, which last fought a major war in 2006. Nasrallah said this month that any future conflict could take place inside Israeli territory.