Kingdom not in crisis, says new Saudi FM

Ibrahim Al-Assaf, the new Saudi foreign minister, speaks to AFP at his residence in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on December 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 December 2018
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Kingdom not in crisis, says new Saudi FM

  • Reshuffle designed to have the best in Cabinet: Official
  • Al-Assaf previously served as finance minister for two decades until 2016

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s new foreign minister on Friday said the recently announced government reshuffle is part of Saudi Arabia’s transformation plans, rejecting the Kingdom was in crisis and his predecessor was demoted.

“The issue of Jamal Khashoggi... really saddened us, all of us,” Ibrahim Al-Assaf told AFP, a day after he was appointed foreign minister in a government reshuffle.

“But all in all, we are not going through a crisis, we are going through a transformation,” he added, referring to social and economic reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Al-Assaf replaced Adel Al-Jubeir as foreign minister in the sweeping government shake-up ordered by King Salman. Responding to claims that Al-Jubeir was demoted, Al-Assaf said: “This is far from the truth. Adel represented Saudi Arabia and will continue to represent Saudi Arabia... around the world. We complement each other.”

Asked whether his biggest foreign policy challenge was to repair the Kingdom’s reputation, Al-Assaf said: “I wouldn’t say ‘repair’ because the relationship between my country and a vast majority of countries in the world is in excellent shape.”

Al-Assaf said his appointment as the top diplomat would help bring his financial experience to foreign affairs amid a current “dip” in the economy. 

The reshuffle of the government was expected as the Cabinet must be replaced and reappointed by royal order every four years, according to a statement from the government communications office. “The reshuffle is designed to ensure that the Cabinet has the best combination of the experience and know-how to meet the needs of the Kingdom over the coming four years,” a government official said in the statement. 


Pompeo meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for talks on Aramco attacks

Updated 52 min 36 sec ago

Pompeo meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for talks on Aramco attacks

  • Pompeo described the drone and cruise missile strikes on Saturday as an 'Iranian attack'
  • Pompeo was met at Jeddah airport by Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf. 

JEDDAH: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday described strikes on key Saudi oil installations as an “act of war” as he landed in Jeddah to meet with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pompeo described the drone and cruise missile strikes on Saturday as an “Iranian attack”.

He said it had not come from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants and that there was no evidence the attacks had been launched from Iraq.

"This is an attack of a scale we've just not seen before," he added.

Pompeo was met at Jeddah airport by Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf.

Pompeo's visit comes as President Donald Trump said on Wednesday there were many options short of war with Iran after Saudi Arabia's display of remnants of drones and missiles it said were used in the I that was "unquestionably sponsored" by Tehran.

"There are many options. There's the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we'll see," Trump told reporters in Los Angeles. "I'm saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war."

Trump, who earlier said on Twitter that he had ordered the US Treasury to "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran, told reporters the unspecified, punitive economic measures would be unveiled within 48 hours.

Trump's tweet followed repeated US assertions that the Islamic Republic was behind Saturday's attack on Aramco facilities and came hours after Saudi Arabia said the strike was a "test of global will."

Earlier on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had spoken with US President Donald Trump about the Aramco attack, and agreed that Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Also on Wednesday, Kuwait's army released a statement announcing it was raising its preparedness level for some units, given the tensions in the Middle East region.