Saudi FM predicts ‘strong cooperation’ with Biden administration

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said it would be “entirely appropriate” for the US to designate the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organisation.
Sunday 22/11/2020
A file picture shows Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaking in Washington, last month. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaking in Washington, last month. (REUTERS)

RIYADH--Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday he was confident that Democrat Joe Biden’s incoming US administration would pursue policies that help regional stability and that any discussions with it would lead to strong cooperation.

After maintaining strong ties with outgoing President Donald Trump, Riyadh is bracing itself for a new US president who pledged on the election campaign trail to reassess ties with Saudi Arabia.

“I’m confident that a Biden administration would continue to pursue policies that are in the interest of regional stability,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Reuters in a virtual interview on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit, which his country is hosting.

“Any discussions we will have with the future administration will lead to strong cooperation.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman enjoyed close personal ties with President Donald Trump and their relationship provided a buffer against international criticism over Riyadh’s rights record, Riyadh’s role in Yemen’s war and the detention of women’s rights activists.

Those areas could become points of friction between Biden and Saudi Arabia, a major oil exporter and buyer of US arms.

Prince Faisal emphasised the 75-year history of “strong defence cooperation” between the two countries and said he expected it to continue.

He said it would be “entirely appropriate” for the United States to designate the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organisation.

“We all know much of their weapons and a significant part of their ideology comes from Iran. So they are certainly a foreign-backed terrorist organisation,” he said.

Washington sees the group as an extension of Iranian influence in the region. Trump’s administration has been threatening to blacklist the group, sources have told Reuters, as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. The Houthis are considered to be among Tehran’s proxies in the Middle East and are suspected of carrying out regional destabilisation activities on behest of Iran.

At issue in future US policy on Iran is how Biden will address Tehran’s ballistic missiles and support for regional proxies in any talks to revive an international nuclear pact with Iran that Trump quit in 2018.