World

Saudi Arabia denounces US Senate’s response to Khashoggi murder

Saudi Arabia lashed out Monday at the US Senate for holding the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, personally responsible for the murder of a Saudi dissident in Istanbul, warning against interference in what it called the kingdom’s internal affairs.

The unusually strong statement aimed at a branch of the US government was the kingdom’s first response to a Senate resolution passed last week that blames Crown Prince Mohammed for the death and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

It was also the kingdom’s latest attempt to manage the damage the killing has done to its decades-old alliance with the United States.

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The Oct. 2 murder of Khashoggi by Saudi agents has prompted the most serious crisis in US-Saudi relations in more than a decade, pushing a range of US officials to call for limits on US military cooperation or arms sales to the kingdom.

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Last week, the Senate voted to end military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and it unanimously passed a separate resolution assigning blame to Crown Prince Mohammed for the killing of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who owned property in Virginia and wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post.

Saudi officials have denied that Crown Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, ordered or even knew about the operation to kill Khashoggi. But US intelligence agencies have concluded that it was highly likely that he was involved, a position also adopted by many US lawmakers.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry criticized the resolution Monday, saying it was based on “unsubstantiated claims and allegations and contained blatant interference in the kingdom’s internal affairs, undermining the kingdom’s regional and international role.”

While criticism has grown in Congress, President Trump has stood by Crown Prince Mohammed, seeing him as an essential partner in his plans for the Middle East. The Saudi statement echoed his view, condemning the killing of Khashoggi but saying that it should not stand in the way of the broader alliance.

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Saudi Arabia and the United States maintain “deep strategic, political, economic and security ties that were built over several decades to serve the interests of both countries and peoples,” the statement said. It cited the kingdom’s value as an ally prominent in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its role in energy markets, and its work with the United States to fight terrorism and to limit Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

The kingdom rejects “any interference in its internal affairs” and accusations “that disrespect its leadership,” it said.

The Senate resolution assigning blame to Crown Prince Mohammed was largely symbolic and the bill to end US support to the Saudi war in Yemen would require the approval of the House of Representatives to become law. It remains unclear whether that might happen, but members of the incoming Congress have vowed to pursue legislation aimed at punishing Saudi Arabia.