Saudi-US relations ‘at all-time high’ as crown prince begins tour

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. (SPA)
Updated 20 March 2018

Saudi-US relations ‘at all-time high’ as crown prince begins tour

WASHINGTON: Iran’s “nefarious” behavior, trade ties and the tech sector are all high on the agenda as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince begins a multi-city trip to the US, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump later on Tuesday.
Talks about further action against the regime in Tehran are “ongoing,” the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Monday, as he laid out the agenda for the US visit by the Kingdom’s heir apparent.
“Our relationship with the US is at an all-time high,” Al-Jubeir said at a briefing in Washington.
“We have very strong ties in all areas, whether it is in trade and investment, whether it is in the military cooperation, whether it is in counter-terrorism.
“This visit will help further strengthen these ties between our two countries.”
The trip follows the crown prince’s visits to both Egypt and the UK earlier this month, which led to a string of political and economic agreements signed between the Kingdom and two of its key allies.
But the visit to the US aims to build on what is possibly Saudi Arabia’s most important relationship, and one strengthened by the arrival of Trump in the White House.
Aside from meeting the US president, Crown Prince Mohammed is also due to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, administration officials and religious leaders.
He will meet financiers and think tank chiefs in New York, entertainment executives and technology entrepreneurs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and key figures of the energy industry in Houston.
“We will sign a number of agreements during this trip,” said Al-Jubeir, adding that most of the deals are expected to be memorandums of understanding.
The visit by Crown Prince Mohammed follows Trump’s move last week to dismiss his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is known to have a softer line on Iran than the US president. Al-Jubeir described Tillerson’s successor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, as “a friend.”
The Saudi foreign minister said the so-called “nuclear deal” between Iran and Western powers — a point of contention between Trump and Tillerson — was “flawed,” describing Tehran’s behavior as “nefarious.”
“We have always argued that Iran must be held accountable for its support for terrorism, for violating resolutions related to ballistic missiles, and for interfering in the affairs of other countries,” he said.
“We’re working to see what the most effective way of achieving those objectives is … Those discussions are ongoing.”
Al-Jubeir acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had work to do in correcting some perceptions about the conflict in Yemen, where the Kingdom leads coalition forces battling Iran-backed Houthi militias.
“A lot of (the issues) we have in Yemen is more perception than reality,” he said.
“The reality is that we didn’t start this war, we didn’t want this war – it was imposed upon us.”
The social reforms underway in Saudi Arabia, under the crown prince’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, are also set to be discussed in the US.
Changes include allowing women to drive from this summer, allowing cinemas to open in the Kingdom, as well as the broader aim to diversify the economy away from its “addiction” to oil.
Al-Jubeir said people should “stay tuned” for news of further reforms, adding that there had been little “pushback” on those that had already taken place.
A key aim of the plan is to make Saudi Arabia “a normal country in which normal people lead normal lives,” he added.

Houthi missile fired towards Jazan intercepted by Saudi air defenses

Updated 24 May 2018

Houthi missile fired towards Jazan intercepted by Saudi air defenses

  • The missile was fired towards the Saudi Arabian province of Jazan in the early hours of Thursday
  • It was launched from the Houthi strong-hold in the Yemeni province of Saada

DUBAI: Saudi air defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthi militia towards the border province of Jazan in the early hours of Thursday morning, Al Ekhbariya TV reported.

The ballistic missile was launched from the Houthi strong-hold province of Saada.

The missile was spotted at 1:58am on Thursday and was headed towards Jazan city, targeting civilian and populated areas.

The Saudi Royal Air Force (RAFF) was able to intercept the missile and destroy it.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have fired a number of missiles over the border at Saudi cities, including the capital, Riyadh, in breach of international laws banning the targeting of civilian areas.

And on Wednesday UAE coalition forces intercepted two boats in the Red Sea being used by the Houthis to target a tanker.