- We do not want war ... We will not hesitate to deal with any threat: Prince Mohammad
- Houthis put Iran's agenda ahead of the interests of Yemen and its people
- Crown Prince expresses support for Sudan and its people
Riyadh: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman said he "won't hesitate" to tackle threats to the kingdom, in his first comment amid ongoing tensions with rival Iran following attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel.
"We do not want a war in the region... But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests," Prince Mohamad said in excerpts published early Sunday of an interview with pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.
The attacks on Thursday on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman sent crude prices soaring amid a tense standoff between Iran and the US.
The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman when it was rocked by explosions, causing a blaze that was quickly extinguished.
Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the United States.
Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.
Prince Mohammad stressed that the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, the targeting of oil facilities and the attack on Abha airport in the kingdom "stresses the importance of our demands from the international community to take a firm stance" on the behaviour of the Iranian regime.
The crown prince said that Saudi Arabia supported "all efforts to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis, but unfortunately, Al Houthi militia is putting Iran's agenda above the interests of Yemen and its people."
He stressed that his country "can not accept the existence of militias outside the state institutions on its borders."
He explained that the goal of the coalition in Yemen is «not only to free it of the presence of the Iranian militias, but the achievement of prosperity and stability and prosperity for all the people of Yemen».
On Sudan, Prince Mohammad promised "our support for our Sudanese brothers in various fields until Sudan reaches its prosperity, and progress."
Adding that Saudi Arabia "is very interested in Sudan's security and stability, not only because of Sudan strategic importance due to its location, and the danger of the collapse of state institutions. But also because of the close ties between the two people."
The Crown Prince in the interview said: "There is an agreement on the objectives in Syria, which is to defeat Daesh, and prevention of terrorist organizations. Also, to deal with the destabilising Iranian influence in Syria, and to use the means available to achieve the political transition in accordance with (UN Security Council) Resolution 2254, to achieve a united Syria."
In the same interview, the crown prince also warned against "exploiting" the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for political gains, in what appeared to be a veiled attack on Turkey.
Turkish officials were the first to report the murder and have continued to press Saudi Arabia for information on the whereabouts of his dismembered body, which has yet to be found.
"The death of Jamal Khashoggi is a very painful crime," Prince Mohammad told daily Asharq al-Awsat. "Any party exploiting the case politically should stop doing so, and present evidence to the (Saudi) court, which will contribute in achieving justice," he added, without directly naming Turkey.
The prince, however, added that he wants strong relations with "all Islamic countries, including Turkey".
Saudi prosecutors said around two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.
Khashoggi, a US resident, had written critically of Prince Mohammad and was killed in what Riyadh described as a "rogue" operation.
Prince Mohammad said the kingdom was committed to "full justice and accountability" in the case, as he faces international pressure to punish the culprits.
$533-million privatisation deals this year
In the same interview published on Sunday, the Saudi Crown Prince revealed that the government will finalise privatisation deals worth 2 billion riyals ($533 million) before the end of this year.
The privatisation drive is part of Vision 2030, a package of reforms led by Prince Mohammad intended to wean the economy off oil and create jobs for young Saudis.
The expected deals will include grain silos, as well as medical and shipping services.
Next year, the government will offer privatisation projects in the education sector with investments worth around 1 billion riyals, according to the interview.
The government's aim to attract investment into everything from education to sports, a cornerstone of its effort to trim dependence on oil revenues.
The crown prince said the government remains committed to Aramco IPO, expecting it to take place between 2020 and early 2021.
He added that recent Aramco acquisition of a majority stake in petrochemical giant SABIC would help its growth potentials and profitability amid usual oil market volatility.
He said the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund (the Public Investment Fund, PIF) is playing a major role in the economic diversification process and that its assets has doubled in two years to SR1 trillion.