Saudi Arabia Monday denounced the United States Senate resolutions calling for an end to U.S. military support for the war in Yemen and blaming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying they were based on unsubstantiated claims.
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The votes last Thursday were a rare rebuke to President Donald Trump, but largely symbolic. To become law, they would need to pass the House of Representatives, whose Republican leaders have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis in the past.
"The Kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations, in any manner, that disrespect its leadership ... and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature," a foreign ministry statement said.
Saudi Arabia has come under increased scrutiny for civilian deaths and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where it is waging a proxy war against Houthi rebels that has killed more than 56,000 people according to a study by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and which has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine, reaching 14 million according to the United Nations.
At U.N.-mediated talks in Sweden last week, the warring parties agreed to a local ceasefire to try to avert more bloodshed in the port of Hodeidah, which is vital for food and aid supplies.
Opponents of the Senate resolutions want to maintain the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which they consider an essential counterweight in the Middle East to Iran.
The outrage over Yemen was renewed after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist from Saudi Arabia and a Washington Post columnist who had gone into a self-imposed exile to the U.S. one year ago when the Saudi Crown Prince MBS started his widespread crackdown on dissenters.
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He went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get papers for his marriage and never returned. Turkey maintains that the kingdom’s officials killed him inside the consulate, which Saudi Arabia denied.
After three weeks of denial, the kingdom accepted that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate but claimed the crown prince had no knowledge of the ‘rogue operation’ conducted by 15 high-profile Saudi officials who flew to Turkey the same day Khashoggi went to the consulate.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded that MBS gave orders to kill Khashoggi but Trump refused to believe it.
The murder has sparked global outrage and damaged the international reputation of 33-year-old Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto leader.
The Saudi statement said the kingdom "hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the United States of America, to avoid any ramifications on the ties between the two countries that could have significant negative impacts on this important strategic relationship."
Trump has vowed to veto the bill which means the bill will go back to the Senate where a two-thirds majority can override the presidential veto.