It was the 84-year-old leader’s first public remarks since he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September via videoconference, where he also targeted Iran condemning its “expansionism.” Sunni Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran are locked in several proxy wars in the region, including in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Tehran-aligned Houthi movement for more than five years.
There was no immediate reaction from Iran to the king’s remarks. Tehran has described the king’s remarks at the UN as “baseless allegations” and denied armed groups in the Middle East.
The SPA state news agency released a full transcript of the king’s speech after midnight, and state television broadcast photos of what appeared to be the king speaking to council members via video conference from his palace by Neom.
Tensions have intensified in the region since United States President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and reimposed strict economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The relationship Trump shares with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had provided a buffer against international criticism of Riyadh’s rights record sparked by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh’s role in the Yemen war and the detention of women activists.
But US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged his campaign to reassess ties with the kingdom, a major oil exporter and purchaser of US arms and military equipment.
Saudi Arabia was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. But Biden said he would revert to a 2015 nuclear pact between world powers and Tehran, a deal negotiated when Biden was vice president of Barack Obama’s administration.
In Yemen, where war has killed tens of thousands and sparked a humanitarian crisis, King Salman said the kingdom continued to support UN-led efforts to reach a political settlement.
He also condemned what he claimed to be the “deliberate and methodological” targeting of civilians inside Saudi Arabia by the Houthi movement via drones and ballistic missiles.
Riyadh was working to ensure the stability of global oil supplies to serve both producers and consumers, despite the impact of COVID-19 on oil markets, the king said.
He reiterated his long-standing support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but did not refer to the US-brokered agreements signed between the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan to normalize relations. with Israel.
Riyadh quietly acquiesced to the deals with the UAE and Bahrain, although he stopped before approving them and signaled he was not ready to take action.
The king spoke a few days before the G20 summit, which Saudi Arabia is virtually hosting this year. Human Rights Watch urged leaders at the event to pressure Riyadh to release all those illegally detained and to be held accountable for past abuses, including the murder of Khashoggi.
MBS denied ordering the murder, but in 2019 admitted it happened under his watch. Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, filed a lawsuit in the United States last month, alleging that MBS and Saudi officials planned the gruesome murder. Riyadh jailed eight people for seven to 20 years in the murder.