19:37 GMT20 April 2021
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    The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s military actions against the Houthis in Yemen has made ties between the US and the kingdom problematic. The recently revealed intelligence report blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s murder has become a testing ground for relations between Washington and Riyadh.

    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underlined in a press briefing at Virtual Trip to Canada that the US will change its approach to the Saudi kingdom in matters concerning armaments regarding the “policies that Saudi Arabia is persuing.”

    As he noted, the US is reconsidering its ties with the Saudi Arabia “not to rupture the relationship, but to recalibrate" it to be more in line with US "interests and values."

    “We have seen results in our own efforts joined, I hope, by Saudi Arabia, to end the war in Yemen. We have seen the new policy approach we have taken to arm transfers and getting back to regular order with Congress,” he said.

    Commenting on future weapons sales to the kingdom, the top US diplomat stated that Washington would “remain committed to the defense of the kingdom.”

    “There is a very important distinction between our commitments to not engaged, not support offensive activities and operations in Yemen, including through the provision of offensive weapons, and the legitimate needs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in terms of its own defense,” he stressed.

    Blinken added that the US would ensure “what it provides goes to the defense of the kingdom, not to its ability to prosecute offensive operations.”

    Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a graduation ceremony for the 95th batch of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 23, 2018.
    Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a graduation ceremony for the 95th batch of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 23, 2018.

    As Reuters reported earlier, citing sources in the US state department, Biden’s administration is defining more specifically offensive and defensive weaponry, as well as equipment and training, as it wants to limit the future sales of armaments to the kingdom for "defensive" weapons.

    According to the source, the White House wants to end the Saudi military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen.

    Shortly after Biden took office, he suspended certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to reconsider deals that were struck by the Trump administration in the 11th hour of his term. The most recent multi-billion dollar deal included supplies of precision aircraft munitions to the amount of $478 million.

    Back to Congress

    Blinken also stated that any decision of weapons sales to the kingdom would be taken in "full consultations" with Congress, noting, in an apparent jab at Trump, that the practice was “something that we have gotten away from in the past.”

    “We are going back to the regular order not just with Saudi Arabia, but with any country with whom we are engaged and are selling arms to and providing security systems,” Blinken underlined.

    In May 2019, the Trump administration notified Congress that it intended to sell additional weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. US law demands that a president notify Capitol Hill lawmakers about potential arms sales, but the former has the right to skip this procedure if there is a specific threat to national security. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited what he described as a “state of emergency” due to a “threat” posed by Iran.

    Congress issued a resolution to block the arm sales and the bill was approved in both chambers, but Trump vetoed the initiative in July 2019 and the Republican-controlled Senate failed to gain the needed majority to overturn his veto.


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