Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince said the warring parties in Yemen are close to resolving a year-long conflict that’s become symbolic of the country’s new foreign policy ambitions.
“There is significant progress in negotiations, and we have good contacts with Al Houthis, with a delegation currently in Riyadh,” the 30-year-old Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, also the country’s defence minister, said in an interview with Bloomberg last week. “We are pushing to have this opportunity materialise on the ground but if things relapse, we are ready.”
The war came to encapsulate shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East as Saudi Arabia under King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and his increasingly powerful son embraced a more assertive regional agenda, one molded by concerns over Iran’s rise and suspicions over waning US interest in the region.
Al Houthi militants overthrew the legitimate Yemeni government from power last year before consolidating their hold over much of Yemen. Saudi Arabia accused Iran, its chief regional rival, of backing the offensive as part of its struggle for regional influence, and in March 2015 the country and a Saudi-led Arab coalition began a military campaign to counter it.
During a five-hour conversation with Bloomberg News last week, Prince Mohammad outlined some of Saudi Arabia’s regional policy positions and his views on the Saudi-US relationship.
Prince Mohammad described Saudi Arabia’s partnership with the US as “huge” and one in which “oil is only a small part.” He declined to comment about the US presidential race saying “we do not interfere in the elections in any other country.”
“America is the policeman of the world, not just the Middle East,” Prince Mohammad said sitting in his office in a royal compound in Riyadh. “It is the number one country in the world, and we consider ourselves to be the main ally for the US in the Middle East and we see America as our ally.”