Saudi crown prince: Only few differences with Biden administration

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a statement broadcast Tuesday that the United States was a strategic partner and that Riyadh had few differences from the Biden government it was working to resolve.

The kingdom’s de facto ruler also said Saudi Arabia would not accept pressure or interference in its internal affairs.

President Joe Biden, who has said he would only speak to his Saudi counterpart King Salman, has taken a tougher stance on Riyadh than his predecessor Donald Trump, who had close ties with Prince Mohammed, on his human rights record and the Yemen war.

“We are more than 90 percent in agreement with the Biden government when it comes to Saudi and US interests, and we are working to strengthen those interests,” said the prince.

“The issues we disagree on are less than 10 percent and we are working to find solutions and understanding … there is no doubt that the United States is a strategic partner,” he added .

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Saudi Arabia is also building strategic partnerships with Russia, India and China, he said in an interview on Saudi television.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration released a U.S. intelligence report that found the Crown Prince implicated in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but spared him any direct punishment. The prince denies any involvement.

It has also withdrawn support for offensive operations from a Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Iranian-led Houthis in Yemen.

The conflict is viewed as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, embroiled in a rivalry for regional influence.

Prince Mohammed said his country wanted good relations with Iran, with which Riyadh severed diplomatic ties in 2016.

“Our problem is Iran’s negative behavior,” he said, mentioning Tehran’s nuclear program, missile program and support from representatives in the region.

“We work with our regional and global partners to find solutions to these problems and we hope to overcome them for good relationships that benefit everyone,” he added.

Regional sources said Saudi and Iranian officials had face-to-face talks in Iraq this month to ease tensions, with discussions on Yemen and efforts to revive the world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Saudi Arabia backed Trump’s decision in 2018 to terminate the pact and re-impose sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded by violating several nuclear restrictions.

When asked about Yemen, Prince Mohammed said no state wanted an armed militia along its borders and urged the Houthis to “sit at the negotiating table”.

Riyadh tabled a nationwide ceasefire proposal for Yemen last month, but the Houthis have not yet adopted it.

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