Trump team to retain close ties with Saudi Arabia despite Senate rebuff

Trump team to retain close ties with Saudi Arabia despite Senate rebuff
2 min read
15 December, 2018
The Senate vote to end Washington's support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen will not affect the US-Saudi relationship, Pompeo said.
Pompeo said the US relationship with Saudi Arabia remains unchanged [Getty]

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday again defended US ties with Saudi Arabia, following a vote in Senate that backed ending Washington's support for Riyadh's war in Yemen.

Pompeo said that support to Riyadh continue as the US' relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital to national security.

He argued that there was a "real risk to the United States of America" from Iran, which is allied with Houthi rebels who control around half of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

"[We are trying] our level best to articulate why our policies are what they are and how we can ensure the right policy for the United States of America and to keep our country safe," he said.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Thursday to end US backing for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, what the UN has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"We certainly have great respect for what the legislative branch does and we're in constant contact with members on Capitol Hill so we understand their concerns," Pompeo added.

The Senate voted to invoke the Vietnam War-era War Powers Act, which reasserts the power of Congress rather than the White House to enter armed conflict.

But the House of Representatives has not yet voted and the margin in the Senate vote was not high enough to override a potential veto by Trump.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was also denounced by Senate as responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the US-based Saudi writer who was murdered and dismembered inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, joining Pompeo in the joint news conference with their Canadian counterparts, noted that the Senate vote came amid progress in Yemen peace talks.

Mattis said the US - which has called on but not forced the Saudis to halt their air campaign - contributed to the diplomatic effort in "ending that war that has gone on too long".

Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign has hit hospitals and a school bus, while a blockade has contributed to widespread starvation, with the UN saying that one child is dying every minute from preventable causes.