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17 Oct, 2022 16:39

US ‘ally’ astonished by accusations of siding with Moscow

Saudi Arabia’s defense minister has implied that Washington, not Kiev, was behind the claim
US ‘ally’ astonished by accusations of siding with Moscow

Riyadh is perplexed by accusations that the Kingdom is “standing with Russia,” Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman said on Saturday. The prince implied that the rumors were the work of Washington, where the administration of US President Joe Biden reacted with shock to Saudi Arabia’s recent push for an oil production cut.

“We are astonished by the accusations that the kingdom is standing with Russia in its war with Ukraine,” Khalid tweeted on Sunday, adding: “It is telling that these false accusations did not come from the Ukrainian government.”

The prince linked to a tweet by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, in which Zelensky thanked Saudi Arabia for voting at the UN to condemn the accession of four formerly Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation, and for working on prisoner swaps and pledging financial aid to Kiev.

Saudi Arabia leads the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC+, which counts Russia among its non-member partners, announced last week that it would cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day, a move that will likely buoy the price of Russian oil on the global markets and raise gas prices in the US ahead of a crucial midterm election for Biden’s Democratic Party next month.

Although the production cut was decided “unanimously,” and for “purely economic reasons, some accused the Kingdom of standing with Russia,” the prince wrote in a separate tweet. “Iran is also a member of OPEC, does this mean that the Kingdom is standing with Iran as well?”

With the US sanctioning Russian oil and restricting domestic energy production, Biden has pressured the Saudis for months to increase production, traveling to Riyadh in July to petition Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly. Once the cut was announced, Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, declared that the Saudis are “certainly aligning themselves with Russia.”

As a number of Democratic lawmakers called on the US to end arms sales to the Kingdom in response, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Biden has no plans to meet with the crown prince at next month’s G20 summit.

Despite never being formal allies, the partnership between the US and Saudi Arabia has been one of the most long-standing and mutually beneficial in the region, with Riyadh being a major buyer of American arms over the past decades. However, the relationship between the two states was strained during Biden's time as vice president, with his boss, former President Barack Obama, calling the Kingdom a “so-called ally.” It then suffered a major blow after Biden alleged that Mohammed bin Salman could be behind the murder of Washington Post author and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.