CBS interview: Saudi Crown Prince talks Khashoggi, Yemen, Iran and women rights

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he did not order the murder of Khashoggi. (Courtesy of CBS)
Updated 30 September 2019

CBS interview: Saudi Crown Prince talks Khashoggi, Yemen, Iran and women rights

  • MBS denies allegations that he ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
  • War with Iran could bring the global economy to standstill MBS warns

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that as leader of the kingdom, he takes full responsibility for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, because it involved people working for the government, but categorically denied ordered the killing.

In a wide-ranging interview with Norah O’Donnell, the anchor of CBS Evening News, the crown prince was also asked about the current tensions with Iran, the war in Yemen and women’s rights.

On the murder of Khashoggi he said: “This was a heinous crime … But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government,” he said in the interview that was aired on Sunday.

“When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials, working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility. This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future,” the crown prince added.

On whether or not he knew of the operation, the crown prince said: “Some think that I should know what three million people working for the Saudi government do daily. It’s impossible that the three million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second-highest person in the Saudi government.”

Asked about CIA reports regarding his alleged involvement in the murder, the crown prince challenged the agency to make their information public. 

“If there is any such information that charges me, I hope it is brought forward publicly.” he said.

He also said that no journalist is a threat to Saudi Arabia, and that on the contrary, what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, is the real threat to the Kingdom.

Women’s rights

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a massive series of reforms which has seen women’s rights improved, with the lifting of the driving ban and the guardianship requirement which prevented women from traveling without the consent of a male family member.

Norah O'Donnell asked him about allegations Saudi female activist Loujain Al-Hathloul had been tortured in prison.

“If this is correct, it is very heinous. Islam forbids torture. The Saudi laws forbid torture,” he said, adding: “Human conscience forbids torture. And I will personally follow up on this matter.”

O’Donnel then suggested to the crown prince that he “does not support women’s rights and human rights.”

“This perception pains me. It pains me when some people look at the picture from a very narrow angle. I hope that everybody comes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and sees the reality, and meets women and Saudi citizens, and judges for themselves,” he responded.




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned that war with Iran could destroy the global economy. (Courtesy CBS)

War in Yemen

On the five-year-long war in Yemen he said: “If Iran stops its support of the Houthi militia then the political solution would be much easier. Today we open all initiatives to a political solution in Yemen. We hope this happens today rather than tomorrow

Asked if he was saying he wanted a negotiated settlement to the war in Yemen he replied: “We are doing this every day.”

“But we try to turn this discussion into an actual implementation on the ground, and the Houthis – a few days ago – announced a ceasefire from their side. We consider it a positive step to push for more serious and active political dialogue.”

The crown prince was asked how he could trust a Houthi ceasefire: “As a leader I must always be optimistic every day. If I am a pessimist, I should leave my post and work somewhere else”

Iran tensions and the Aramco attack

He told CBS “60 Minutes” that he believed the Sept. 14 attacks were an act of war, but he added that he would prefer to see a peaceful resolution to the current tensions.

He said: “Because the political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.”

He said a war with Iran would mean the total collapse of the global economy.

He called for Donald Trump to sit at the table with the Iranians – something he blamed the latter for its failure to happen.

The strikes against the oil-processing facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais resulted in knocking off 50 percent of the Kingdom’s oil production, or about five percent of global energy supply.

Days later the crown prince and the Saudi energy minister pledged that the Kingdom would deliver oil supplies to consumers for the month and would revive oil production to 11 million barrels a day.

It was a task the state-owned company achieved ahead of schedule.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he was optimistic about the future. (Courtesy of CBS)

Sanctions

The US then imposed further sanctions on Iranian assets on Sept. 20, including on Iran’s central bank and the National Development Fund of Iran.

“If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests,” the crown prince said in the CBS interview.

“Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.”

Speaking of the Middle East’s role in the global economy he added: “The region represents about 30 percent of the world’s energy supplies, about 20 percent of global trade passages, about four percent of the world GDP.”

“Imagine all of these three things stop. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries.”


Saudi body to help UN devise policies for sustainable living

Updated 13 August 2020

Saudi body to help UN devise policies for sustainable living

  • Saudi Green Building Forum granted accreditation as an observer to UNEP governing body

RIYADH: A professional association from Saudi Arabia will play a key policymaking role at a UN governing body addressing the importance of environmental needs.
Following careful assessment and consideration of the commitments and engagements of the Saudi Green Building Forum (SGBF), the nonprofit organization has been granted accreditation as an observer at the governing body of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). SGBF will play a role as an observer at all public meetings and sessions of the UNEP and its subsidiary organs.
Speaking to Arab News, Faisal Al-Fadl, founder of the nonprofit organization, said that the forum’s mission has been developing for the past 10 years and this accreditation was considered an important step in strengthening the role of Saudi civil society institutions, locally and internationally. This was in line with Vision 2030, which has not only played an integral role in the NGO’s mission but also paved the way for the Kingdom’s people to go the extra mile in building an advanced and resilient society.
SGBF was initiated in 2010 and established in 2014. In 2017, it became the first professional body from Saudi Arabia in consultative status with the UN.
“The Saudi Forum was an advocacy group with an honest voice to bridge the gap; through UNEP we now have the tools to become the policymakers,” Al-Fadl said. It is a challenge that the group founder says will be met by providing communities with the proper tools to implement commitments.
As the observing body on the environmental framework at the UNEP, SGBF’s role will include promoting its concepts and goals to be reflected within the community of change. For change to happen, people of a community at a grassroots level who have committed to the preservation of moral codes of conduct are key to changing mentality and behavior to guarantee a future for the next generations, Al-Fadl said.
“As an open platform, our role is being the honest voice of bridging the gap. Economic and social progress accompanied by environmental degradation and pandemics are endangering the very systems on which our future development and our survival depends,” he said.
SGBF represents the Kingdom and its call to communities, stakeholders, and policymakers to build on the principles of volunteering, advocacy and sustainable development.
For the NGO, their next step is increasing the engagement of civil society, finding solutions to the problem of volunteer integration in societies, and to prioritize and address social challenges for women, youth and the elderly, calling on member states to increase their role in building and developing practices that minimize the negative impact on the planet.
Al-Fadl added that protecting the planet and building resilience was not easy. Without bolstering local action, including volunteers to accelerate the implementation, it would be a long time until goals were met and result seen, he said.
“UN member countries have the responsibility in confronting the human crisis of inestimable proportions, which impose its heaviest tolls on the supply chain for those marginalized and
most vulnerable in cities and communities around the world,” Al-Fadl said.