Saudi king lashes out at Iran’s expansionism, hopes for political settlement in Yemen
LONDON - Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has struck a defiant note against Tehran, saying that missile and drone strikes the kingdom blames on Iran had not halted development and reiterating that Riyadh would not hesitate to defend itself.
“Though the kingdom has been subjected to attacks by 286 ballistic missiles and 289 drones in a way that has not been seen in any other country that has not affected the kingdom’s development process or the lives of its citizens and residents,” King Salman said November 20 in his annual address to the Shura Council.
He urged Iran to abandon its expansionist ideology that has “harmed” its own people, following violent street protests in the Islamic republic. A wave of demonstrations have erupted in Iran since November 15 after an announcement that petrol prices would be raised as much as 200%.
“We hope the Iranian regime chooses the side of wisdom and realises there is no way to overcome the international position that rejects its practices without abandoning its expansionist and destructive thinking that has harmed its own people,” King Salman said.
Iran and Saudi Arabia, the region’s leading Shia and Sunni powers, have no diplomatic ties and are at odds over a range of issues, including wars in Syria and Yemen.
“The kingdom has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies,” King Salman said, as quoted by the Saudi Foreign Ministry, reiterating that Riyadh does not seek war but is “ready to defend its people.”
King Salman said he hoped for a political settlement in Yemen, where Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition for more than four years.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict in 2015, shortly after the Houthi rebels took over Sana’a.
King Salman said he hoped a recent Saudi-brokered agreement between the Yemeni government and southern separatists would “open the door for wider peace talks” to end the conflict.
His statements signalled a shift in Riyadh’s policy, reflecting a realisation there is no military solution to the conflict.
Along that line, Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman, deputy defence minister, travelled November 11 for a meeting with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said to prepare for high-level talks with the Houthis. The meeting marked the culmination of more than three years of highly discreet talks between Saudi and Houthi officials.
Prince Khalid has been tasked by his brother, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, with negotiating an end to the war, which began nearly five years ago at a time when the political, military and humanitarian costs of the conflict have become increasingly unsustainable and Iran is stepping up military cooperation with the Houthis.
(With news agencies.)