Blinken Talks Human Rights with Saudi Crown Prince

On a trip to strengthen ties with the longtime ally, which has developed tighter relationships with Washington’s adversaries, US State Secretary Antony Blinken spoke with the Saudi Arabian crown prince about human rights on Tuesday.

During his three-day stay in the oil-rich country, Blinken will also discuss attempts to resolve conflicts in Sudan and Yemen, the united effort against the Islamic State group (IS), and relations between the Arab world and Israel.

His visit coincides with a period of rapidly shifting Middle Eastern alliances, which are focused on a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two major players in the region, that was arranged by China in March.

Another significant development was the Arab League’s invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last month, the first occasion since the start of the 12-year civil war in which his regime has had support from Russia and Iran.

The two men had “an open, candid discussion that covered the full range of regional and bilateral issues” when Biden met with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman late on Tuesday, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

Both generally and in relation to particular situations, the secretary brought up human rights.

Discussions at the hour-and-a-half-long discussion included Saudi Arabia’s support for US evacuations from Sudan, the necessity of political engagement in Yemen, and the possibility of normalising relations with Israel.

Blinken arrived in Jeddah, a city on the Red Sea, on Tuesday night, and is scheduled to go to Riyadh on Wednesday for a GCC conference.

Energy Costs

The trip is Blinken’s first since the country’s diplomatic relations with Iran were restored. Iran is seen as a pariah by the West due to its disputed nuclear programme and involvement in regional crises.

The accord that was signed in China, the burgeoning power making advances in the Middle East, received hesitant approval from the United States.

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The 2018 murder of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi severely strained US-Saudi relations, which had long been centred on energy and defence.

When Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter in the world, declined to assist in bringing down the surging energy prices following Russia’s invasion on Ukraine in February of last year, Washington was also outraged.

Rights advocates asked Blinken to voice their concerns, including Abdullah Al-Qahtani, a US citizen whose father, Mohammad Al-Qahtani, was imprisoned for 10 years after starting a civil rights organisation in Saudi Arabia and is still missing.

He must bring up the predicament with my dad. He is he alive? Does he undergo torture? Abdullah Al-Qahtani stated during a virtual news conference, “We don’t know.

The 37-year-old Prince Mohammed has pursued an autonomous foreign policy course and will be hosting Nicolas Maduro on Monday.

After a seven-year break, Iran, a longtime adversary of the United States and Israel, reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

Even so, the US and Saudi Arabia maintain tight strategic ties, particularly in the area of defence: Washington has long given Riyadh with security protection from Iran’s Shiite government, and Riyadh also purchases state-of-the-art US weapons.

relations with Israel
Efforts to broker a long-lasting ceasefire in Sudan’s eight-week battle have been tightly coordinated by US and Saudi diplomats, though so far without success. Saudi assistance was essential in the evacuation of thousands of foreigners from the conflict area.

The two partners are also involved in the ongoing conflict with IS, a terrorist organisation that has lost all of its Middle Eastern territory but is becoming more and more active in portions of Africa.

They are also talking about ways to put an end to the violence in Yemen, where the government has long received military assistance from a coalition led by Saudi Arabia in its conflict with Iranian-backed Huthi rebels.

The United States also anticipates that Saudi Arabia would eventually consent to Israel’s call for normalisation of relationships with other Arab nations as a result of the Abraham Accords, which were mediated by the Trump administration.

Blinken reaffirmed that “the United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia” on the eve of his trip to Saudi Arabia.

He reiterated that “we remain committed to working towards that outcome” but said that Washington had “no illusions” that it can be accomplished quickly or simply.

Saudi Arabia has up until now insisted that before Israel can acknowledge a Palestinian state as sovereign.

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