Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States will remain virtually unaltered under the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, the Kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs has said.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Adel Al-Jubeir emphasized that the relationship between the two countries was “strong, dynamic and multifaceted.”
“The (Biden) administration has made it very, very clear that it is committed to the defense of Saudi Arabia, that it is committed to defending Saudi against external threats,” Al-Jubeir said.
“So, I really don’t see much of a change between this administration and the previous administration in terms of their commitment to Saudi Arabia.”
He said relations between Washington and Riyadh go back 80 years, and have been a key factor in maintaining global stability and security. “Our relationship with the U.S. is a strategic relationship. We have economic interests and financial interests. We work to fight extremism and terrorism.”
“We work to stabilize the region — whether it’s trying to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians; whether it’s in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan; trying to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan; whether it’s stabilizing Sudan; whether it’s working to end the war in Libya or to deal with the G5 (Sahel) countries, in their fight against Boko Haram,” Al-Jubeir said.
“I believe they have made it clear that they want Iran to go back to the nuclear agreement and they want a nuclear agreement that is, to quote Secretary of State (Antony) Blinken, ‘stronger and longer.’ This is something that we’ve been advocating since the advent of this deal.”
“We want the ‘sunset provision’ to be eliminated so that Iran cannot indefinitely enrich uranium. And we want to have a broader and deeper inspections mechanism to make sure that everything in Iran can be inspected, should there be a need.”
Al-Jubeir told Arab News that the recent attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities had links to Tehran. “All of the missiles and drones that came into Saudi are Iranian manufactured or Iranian supplied,” he said. “Several of them, as we’ve said, came from the north; several came from the sea.”
According to him, the U.S. decision to remove the Houthis from its international terrorism list, on the same day the Yemeni separatists attacked the civilian airport in Abha in Saudi Arabia, would make little difference to the international effort to provide aid to the country.
“We have made this very clear to our friends in Europe and to the U.S. as well as to the United Nations special envoy,” Al-Jubeir said.
“The Taliban in Afghanistan are on the terrorism list; it doesn’t stop aid from coming to Afghanistan. In Syria you have Daesh on the terrorism list and that doesn’t stop aid from going to Syria. Hezbollah in Lebanon is on the terrorism list, that doesn’t stop aid from going to Lebanon. The Al-Shabab in Somalia are on the terror list and that doesn’t stop aid from going there. Boko Haram is on a terror list and that doesn’t stop aid from going into the G5 Sahel countries.”
The problem, Al-Jubeir insisted, lay with the Houthis. “They steal the aid; they sell it to finance their war machine. They induct young boys — 9, 10, 11 years of age — and put them on the battlefield, which is against international law and a severe violation of human rights,” he said.
“They indiscriminately launch ballistic missiles and drones against civilians, whether it’s in Saudi Arabia or in Yemen, where they also robbed the Central Bank. They rejected every attempt at achieving a peaceful settlement or cooperating with the UN special envoy.
“So, the message the position from our perspective with regards to the Houthis is very clear: They belong on a terrorism list and nobody should deal with them.”
The presence of the Iranian-backed separatists does not mean that peace is impossible in Yemen, Al-Jubeir said.
“We believe there is a political solution out there. We’re trying to achieve that political solution and have been trying to do so since the beginning of the commencement of hostilities several years ago,” he said.
“We have supported every effort and every initiative by the UN special envoys to arrive at a solution. We have worked to unify the Yemeni government, to unify the north with the Southern Transition Council. We have provided more than $17 billion in humanitarian assistance. We have made it very clear that the only solution in Yemen is a political solution based on the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue and the UN Security Council Resolution 2216.”
He also defended the Kingdom’s record on human rights, which has come under attack in some parts of the world.