Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has confirmed that Gulf states remain in talks with Washington on the creation of a regional security alliance directed against Iran.
"Talks are continuing between the United States and the Gulf states around this question and ideas are being drawn up," the senior diplomat said, speaking at a press conference following a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Riyadh on Sunday, AFP has reported.
"The aim is to achieve security arrangements in the Middle East that can protect the region from external aggression…and strengthen relations between the United States and the countries of the region," al-Jubeir added.
The security pact is "a work in progress and the two parties want to see it happen," the foreign minister stressed, noting that the proposed alliance, called the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) would also include Egypt.
The traditional strategic alliance between Washington and Riyadh took a hit in recent months following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor who had expressed criticism of the Saudi monarchy. Riyadh firmly denied all allegations that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi's killing, and launched an internal investigation to bring those responsible for what it said was a "rogue operation" to justice. However, last Wednesday, a group of US senators including Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republicans Lindsey Graham and Macro Rubio introduced a resolution to hold the crown prince personally complicit in Khashoggi's killing. The senators drafted the resolution after a closed-door briefing on the case by CIA director Gina Haspel.signalled that he would not take action against the Saudi government over the Khashoggi scandal. On November 28, Secretary Pompeo reiterated that Washington has not seen any evidence to connect Saudi officials including the crown prince to the journalist's murder. Last week, the Pentagon said US-Saudi military-to-military ties remain unaffected. The Trump administration has also been keen to salvage its $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh agreeing to purchase a batch of THAAD missile defence systems late last month.