Saudi ambassador welcomes review of US ties at ‘point of disagreement’


Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
CNN

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US confirmed to CNN that while Riyadh’s relationship with Washington is “at a point of disagreement” following OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production, ties between the two long-time allies are strong.

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, in her first televised interview with international media since becoming ambassador in early 2019, told CNN’s Becky Anderson that “it’s okay to disagree.”

“Our relationship is more than the sale of arms and more than the exchange of oil,” Princess Reem said in an interview released on Tuesday.

The Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel announced earlier this month that it would cut production by 2 million barrels a day, a decision that spurned heavy lobbying by US administration officials and prompted the Biden administration to review the long-standing relationship between the two countries. The cut in oil production aligns with Russian interests and is of particular political concern to US President Joe Biden, who is heading into midterm election season.

Saudi officials insist the production cuts are being made to protect the country’s economic interests, but the decision sparked bipartisan anger in Washington, with several lawmakers calling for punitive measures such as halting arms sales, pulling US troops out of the region and limiting overall ties to the kingdom.

Princess Reema rejected accusations that the kingdom is collaborating with Russia, saying she talks to “everyone, those we agree with and those we don’t agree with”.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but Princess Reema said that under Vision 2030, the kingdom is “reshaping itself to be one of the largest energy producers” by investing billions of dollars in renewable energy, ensuring an oil balance. the market

“We want this next chapter of clean energy to be a partnership, because that is the future. This argument about OPEC is because the world is tense today. But it is not a conversation of the future”, he added.

The princess was appointed ambassador to Washington in 2019, at a time when Saudi-US relations were extremely frosty following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA has concluded that Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the assassination, which he denies.

In an interview with Anderson, Princess Reema said that the US welcomed the review of the relationship between the two countries, “because the kingdom is not what it was five years ago.”

“I deal very regularly with the administration, and to be honest, it is an administration that I deeply respect. I have had nothing but the most pleasant and direct communication, as we should. This is how the partners communicate with each other”, he continued.

Before becoming ambassador, the princess was an advocate for women’s rights in the kingdom and worked with the Ministry of Education to get physical education for girls into schools. But while the Saudi government has introduced significant reforms, there is still very little room for public dissent, especially for women. In August, Saudi women’s rights campaigner Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison for her activities on Twitter, according to court documents seen by CNN.

Asked how she is shaping the kingdom’s women’s empowerment amid a wave of arrests that critics have called harsh and senseless, Princess Reema said some reforms are happening faster than others.

“I will tell you that their cases are being reviewed. I believe they are under appeal. And I think the system will correct itself if necessary,” he said.

“The United States had a 200-year journey of transformation,” Princess Reema continued. “We had 80. We are different people in a different place, and we will get there because we believe in the same thing. We believe in our people’s choice set. And we are very proud of the changes that have taken place.”