Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday that he was confident that the next US administration of Democrat Joe Biden would pursue policies that help regional stability and that any discussions related to this would lead to strong cooperation, according to reports. Reuters.
Riyadh is preparing for a new US president who pledged in the election campaign to reevaluate ties with Saudi Arabia, a state he described as a “pariah” in 2019.
“I am confident that a Biden administration will continue to pursue policies that benefit regional stability,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Reuters in a virtual interview on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit, which his country is organizing. .
“Any discussion we have with the future administration will lead to strong cooperation.”
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman enjoyed close personal ties to President Donald Trump and their relationship served to dampen international criticism of Riyadh’s rights record following the assassination of US-based and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the role of Riyadh in the Yemen war and the arrest of women’s rights activists.
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Those areas may now become friction points between Biden and Saudi Arabia, a major US oil exporter and arms buyer.
Prince Faisal stressed the 75-year history of “strong defense cooperation” between the two countries and said he hoped it would continue.
He said it would be “entirely appropriate” for the United States to designate the Houthi movement in Yemen, aligned with Iran, as a foreign terrorist organization.
“We all know that much of their weapons and a significant part of their ideology comes from Iran. So they are certainly a foreign-backed terrorist organization,” he said.
Washington sees the group as an extension of Iranian influence in the region. The Trump administration has been threatening to blacklist the group, sources have told Reuters, as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. Iran denies giving financial and military support to the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia lobbied hard for the campaign against rival Iran, and the issue is how Biden will address Tehran’s ballistic missiles and support for regional powers in any talks to revive an international nuclear pact with Iran that Trump abandoned in 2018.
Prince Faisal also said the kingdom enjoyed “good and friendly” relations with Turkey, which has been at odds with the kingdom for some years over foreign policy and attitudes towards Islamist political groups. Khashoggi’s assassination at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul greatly increased tensions.
For more than a year, some Saudi and Turkish traders have speculated that Saudi Arabia was implementing an informal boycott of imports from Turkey.
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The minister said he has not seen any results to support the existence of a boycott.
Commenting on the division between the Gulf countries with Qatar, Prince Faisal said that Riyadh was looking for a way to end the dispute with Qatar. The dispute dates back to 2017 when the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar, severing diplomatic and transport ties and accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies its accusations of supporting terrorism.
In the run-up to the G20, major human rights groups and families of jailed activists called on the capitals of the G20 countries to boycott the summit over Riyadh’s human rights record.
Asked whether Saudi Arabia was considering granting clemency to detained women’s rights activists, a perspective initially raised by the Saudi ambassador to the UK and later withdrawn, Prince Faisal said clemency “was not a problem “, as women continued to be tried.
The detainees are accused of harming Saudi interests. Few charges have been made public, but some refer to contacts with foreign journalists, diplomats, and human rights groups.