Saudi denounces US Senate resolutions on Khashoggi, Yemen

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Senators Mike Lee, Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy speak after the Senate voted on a resolution ending US military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill, Washington on December 13. Reuters

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia yesterday denounced US Senate resolutions calling for an end to US military support for the war in Yemen and blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying they were based on unsubstantiated claims.

The votes last Thursday were a rare rebuke to President Donald Trump, but largely symbolic. To become law, they would need to pass the House of Representatives, whose Republican leaders have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis.

“The Kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations, in any manner, that disrespect its leadership … and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Mr Khashoggi, a royal insider who became a critic of Prince Mohammed and began writing for the Washington Post after moving to the US last year, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October. Saudi officials have rejected accusations that the crown prince ordered his death.

The murder has sparked global outrage and damaged the international reputation of 33-year-old Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto leader, who is pushing economic and social changes in the world’s top oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia has also come under increased scrutiny for civilian deaths and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where it support the internationally-recognised government against Iranian-aligned Houthis in a nearly four-year-old civil war.

At UN-mediated talks in Sweden last week, the warring parties agreed to a local ceasefire to try to avert more bloodshed in the port of Hodeidah, which is vital for food and aid supplies.

Opponents of the Senate resolutions want to maintain the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, which they consider an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran.

Administration officials also see Saudi support as a linchpin for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan yet to be disclosed by the Trump administration. And they have argued that ending US support could complicate Yemen peace efforts.

The Saudi statement said the kingdom “hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the United States of America, to avoid any ramifications on the ties between the two countries that could have significant negative impacts on this important strategic relationship.”

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