Manama Dialogue: Saudi FM denies Riyadh is changing alliances, says relations with US are ‘ironclad’

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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (AN photo/Ziyad Alarfaj)
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US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (IISS)
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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (IISS)
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US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, addresses the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama 27 October 2018. (IISS)
Updated 27 October 2018
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Manama Dialogue: Saudi FM denies Riyadh is changing alliances, says relations with US are ‘ironclad’

  • All Saudis held in Khashoggi investigation will be investigated and prosecuted in the kingdom, confirms Al-Jubeir
  • US Defense Sec. Mattis stresses ‘strong partnership’ between US and KSA is maintained, Khashoggi case ‘a concern for all’

MANAMA: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Saturday denied media reports that Saudi Arabia intended to shift its alliance away from the United States and the West.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a strategic relationship with the United States that goes back to the 1930s, it was enshrined by a meeting with the late King Abdulaziz and late Franklin Roosevelt,” Al-Jubeir said.

“That relationship is ironclad.  Saudi Arabia has been an ally of the Western countries since the beginning of the third Saudi state … it’s not going to change.
“Friends come and go but interests remain, this is how we look at our relationship with the West in general and the United States in particular.” 
Al-Jubeir’s comments came in response to a question by Arab News on the first day of the annual Manama Dialogue organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The foreign minister also praised the current US administration’s Middle East strategy, especially in relation to containing Iran.
President Donald Trump had been protecting US allies since he took office, a foreign policy that was both “rational and realistic,” Al-Jubeir said.


“He has defeated Daesh in Syria because he wasn’t hesitant about deploying force. He has defeated Daesh in Iraq, when it took years for the Obama administration to make any progress. He has put Iran on notice that business as usual cannot continue, and imposed sanctions against Iran.”
Addressing the murder this month in Istanbul of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the continuing investigation, Al-Jubeir said the Saudi government was committed to finding all the facts, and was working closely with the Turkish government to do so.
“We know a mistake was committed, we know that people exceeded their authority, and we are investigating them,” he said.
Eighteen Saudis have been arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s death, and Turkey’s request for their extradition will not be granted, Al-Jubeir said. “The individuals are Saudi nationals, they are detained in Saudi Arabia, the investigation is in Saudi Arabia and they will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia.
“Unfortunately there has been hysteria in the media about Saudi Arabia’s guilt before the investigation is completed. Wait for the results of the investigation and then make a determination if the investigation is serious or not, but not from the get-go.” 
Earlier, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Khashoggi’s murder inside a diplomatic mission “must concern us all.” If any nation failed to adhere to international norms and the rule of law, it “undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most,” he said, but he also stressed the strength of Saudi-US relations: “We maintain our strong people-to-people partnership knowing that with our respect must come transparency and trust, as indicated by President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and European leaders alike.
“These two principles are vital to continued collaboration because we know that to remain committed, we’re going to have to continue transparency and security for all in this region.”


UN hopes for meeting on Syria constitution by late December

US Deputy United Nations Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, left, address the UN Security Council after a report from UN chief mediator for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, shown center in a live video broadcast, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 at UN headquarters. (AP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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UN hopes for meeting on Syria constitution by late December

  • Staffan de Mistura said the UN welcomes “constructive and moderate suggestions” to change the list of the disputed 50 members

NEW YORK: The UN is still aiming to send invitations to 150 Syrians by mid-December to participate in a committee that would draft a new constitution for Syria, which is key to holding elections and ending the country’s civil war, a UN envoy said on Monday.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, told the Security Council that the UN also aims to hold the committee’s first meeting before Dec. 31.
But de Mistura said the Syrian regime is objecting to 50 members of the committee representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women that he was authorized to put together at a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in Sochi on Jan. 30.
Under the Sochi agreement, the committee is to comprise 150 members. There is already agreement on the 50-member delegation from the regime and the 50-member delegation from the opposition.
But de Mistura warned that if there is no agreement on the remaining members, the UN may have to conclude that it is not possible to form a “credible and inclusive” constitutional committee at this stage.
He said the UN welcomes “constructive and moderate suggestions” to change the list of the disputed 50 members. But de Mistura said they must “maintain the same spirit of credibility, balance and international legitimacy,” and he stressed that the list cannot be filled with political leaders who are already represented.
The UN envoy said that at his last briefing to the Security Council in December “it will be my duty to explain where we are on the constitutional committee, and leave a clean and clear ground to my successor regarding it.”
De Mistura was supposed to step down at the end of December but UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday he will be staying on “for a bit longer” to make sure there is no gap “at an extremely critical time in the Syria talks.”