Secretary of State Blinken says US-Saudi relations 'under review'

Secretary of State Blinken says US-Saudi relations 'under review'
The Secretary of State said that the Saudi-American partnership must be consistent with US interests and values.
2 min read
02 February, 2021
The US has already frozen arms sales to Saudi Arabia [Getty]
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington will review its relationship with Riyadh, noting that any future partnership must align with "US values".

In an interview with NBC News aired on Monday, Blinken said that Saudi Arabia was an "important" ally but that the Washington-Riyadh relationship was under "review".

"Saudi Arabia has been an important partner for us in counterterrorism, in trying to advance regional stability, and deal with regional aggression. But we also have to make sure that that partnership is being conducted in a way that's consistent with our interests and also with their values," the Secretary of State said.

"And so the president has asked that we review the relationship to make sure it is doing just that. And that's exactly what's happening now," Blinken added.

It is yet unclear what that review will mean for relations, but the Biden administration has already taken steps that diverge from the previous administration's friendly approach with Gulf allies.

The State Department froze arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE last week over the Gulf allies' bloody involvement in the Yemen civil war.

Blinken has also said the State Department will review the designation of Yemen's Houthi rebels as a terrorist organisation.

In the interview taped on Sunday, the Secretary of State repeated his previous pledge to end US support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

"The president has said that we will stop our support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen," he said.

"We also have to step up our ability to get humanitarian assistance to people in Yemen, who are suffering terribly."

Blinken also condemned the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"The murder of Mr Khashoggi was an outrageous act against a journalist, against someone [who was] a resident of the United States. It was abhorrent, and I think it shocked the conscience of the world," Blinken said.

Blinken's condemnation of the murder goes further than that of his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, or former President Donald Trump.

The Secretary of State declined to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, despite a classified CIA report concluding he ordered the Khashoggi killing, according to reports. 

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said last month that the Biden administration would comply with a congressional request to release the withheld intelligence report identifying the Saudi officials involved in the killing.

The Trump administration had defied the legally binding request.

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