Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Sunday that Iran's Persian Gulf Arab neighbors would act to shore up their security if Tehran were to obtain nuclear weapons.
Indirect US-Iranian talks to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact between global powers and Iran, which Washington exited in 2018, stalled in September. The UN nuclear chief has voiced concern over a recent announcement by Tehran that it was boosting enrichment capacity.
Iran reportedly has amassed enough 60-percent enriched uranium that if it decides to purify the fissile material further, it could be sufficient for at least one nuclear bomb.
"If Iran gets an operational nuclear weapon, all bets are off," Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in an on-stage interview at the World Policy Conference in Abu Dhabi when asked about such a scenario.
"We are in a very dangerous space in the region...you can expect that regional states will certainly look towards how they can ensure their own security."
The statement came shortly after the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is seen trying to reduce its reliance on the United States. Reports last year said that Saudi Arabia appears to be building ballistic missiles with Chinese help.
The nuclear talks have stalled with Western powers accusing Iran of raising unreasonable demands, and focus shifting to the Russia-Ukraine war as well as domestic unrest in Iran over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Though Riyadh remained "skeptical" about the Iran nuclear deal, Prince Faisal said it supported efforts to revive the pact "on condition that it be a starting point, not an end point" for a stronger deal with Tehran.
Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states have pressed for a stronger agreement that addresses their concerns about Shi'ite Iran's missiles and drone program and network of regional proxies.
"The signs right now are not very positive unfortunately," Prince Faisal said.
"We hear from the Iranians that they have no interest in a nuclear weapons program, it would be very comforting to be able to believe that. We need more assurance on that level."
Iran says its nuclear technology is solely for civil purposes, but its policy of enriching uranium to 60 percent has no civilian use and only a short step away from bomb-level purity of 90 percent.
A senior Emirati official said on Saturday that there was an opportunity to revisit "the whole concept" of the nuclear pact given the current spotlight on Tehran's weapons with Western states accusing Russia of using Iranian drones to attack targets in Ukraine. Iran and Russia deny the charges.
Anwar Gargash, the diplomatic advisor to the president of the UAE, reiterated a call for "explicit" security assurances from traditional Western allies, especially in dealing with the threat from Iranian drones that Gulf states have long warned about.
It was not until these weapons "made it into the Ukraine theatre" that they were "catapulted" into the spotlight, and "suddenly the world rediscovered this issue", Gargash said.
"This is an opportunity for all of us to come and revisit the whole concept," Gargash said, referring to the Iran nuclear pact.
With reporting by Reuters