WASHINGTON: The Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, has said there have recently been “huge improvements in Saudi-US relations”.
In an interview with Washington Post, Prince Khalid said, “I think that President Trump is determined to work with his allies in the region to counter Iranian expansionism and terrorism. We are happy with the current policies in the region.”
According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), commenting on the issue of Qatar, the ambassador said, “I think Qatar’s policies have been a threat to our national security, especially when they interfere in our domestic politics and support extremists. In Syria, they have supported Al Qaida affiliates and some terrorist Shiite militias in Iraq. We hope Qatar will stop funding extremism.”
He stated, “The Saudi government is on the front line of fighting terrorism. There might be people from a lot of different countries who support terrorism, but in Qatar the problem is that it is government-funded.”
In response to a question with regard to supporting moderate groups in Syria, the ambassador said, “There are some moderate opposition groups, for example, the Free Syrian Army. There are a lot of people in Syria who want to free themselves from the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad. We are working with our allies to help stabilise Syria,” adding that “Bashar Al Assad has killed more than 500,000 people. We are working with the US to end the Syria problem”.
Explaining the kingdom’s position regarding human rights, the ambassador said, “Every country moves forward, and we are. The last two years have been a time of big change in our country. Human rights have been moving forward, women’s rights have been moving forward. Saudi youth have been given a chance to play a part in our future.” He reiterated that “the leadership realises that women are important to our future and to moving our economy forward. We can’t move forward without half of our population”.
On resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue, he explained, “Saudi Arabia has stated that we want to solve the Palestinian-Israeli issue through the Arab peace initiative, and if Israel recognises Palestine based on the 1967 borders, the Arab world has agreed to do so.”
On freeing Mosul, the ambassador said the success in Mosul demonstrates the US administration’s determination as well as that of the Iraqi military. “We will be glad to see Daesh defeated in Iraq, they are a threat to our nation and our religion. As Muslims, we in Saudi Arabia need to do whatever it takes to end this once and for all,” he said.
The ambassador also affirmed the need for bringing all parties together, asserting that sectarianism always leads to terrorism. “Sunnis and Shiites have to be treated equally as Iraqi citizens. Iran wants Iraq to obey Iran. We support the independence of Iraq,” he explained.
On war in Yemen, he said that Saudi Arabia has been encouraging all parties to the negotiating table but that Al Houthis have refused. The ball is now in Al Houthis’ court. They have to drop their weapons and become part of Yemen, not part of Iran,” the ambassador said.
Commenting on Iran’s threat to close the Arabian Gulf, he said, “Iran has threatened to do so on multiple occasions in the past. The whole world, including our government, is worried about that,” before adding, “The Strait of Hormuz is important not just to our economy, but to the international economy; the US and its allies realise how big the threat is to international security, and we are ready to work together to contain Iran’s actions and its expansionist policies.”
In response to a question on the 9/11 attacks and possible Saudi links, the ambassador explained, “We had nothing to do with 9/11. In 1996, Osama Bin Laden issued a declaration of war against the United States and Saudi Arabia. In 1994, we took away Bin Laden’s Saudi citizenship when he was in Sudan. We believe the same people who attacked the United States on 9/11 attacked us in Saudi Arabia multiple times.
“Saudi Arabia regards the 19 hijackers as members of Al Qaida, and because those people represented Al Qaida, there was a reason as to why 15 Saudi nationals were selected. They wanted to create a split between Saudi Arabia and the United States,” he concluded.