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Pompeo: US committed to Saudi Arabia to deter Iran

Pompeo: US committed to Saudi Arabia to deter Iran

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger McEnany appears on Fox in 'personal capacity' as Trump campaign adviser US signs satellite data-sharing pact with India, warns of Chinese threats MORE on Wednesday said the U.S. is committed to providing robust arms sales to Saudi Arabia as partners in confronting Iran’s actions in the region.

The secretary was speaking alongside Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the  Saudi foreign minister, in Washington following a morning meeting of the first U.S. and Saudi strategic dialogue. Pompeo and his Saudi counterpart will continue to meet throughout the day.

“Today we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to countering Iranian malign activity and the threat it poses to regional security and prosperity and the security of the American people as well,” Pompeo said in short remarks Wednesday morning.

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“The United States supports a robust program of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a line of effort that helps the kingdom protect its citizens and sustains American jobs.”

Prince Faisal said that the U.S. and Saudi partnership is “vital in confronting the forces of extremism and terrorism that threaten our security and prosperity.”

The comments from Pompeo come as he has faced scrutiny for pushing through arms sales to Saudi Arabia in May 2019 that Congress has sought to block, with more than $8 billion in weapons provided to Riyadh as part of an emergency declaration that the secretary said was necessary to counter Iranian threats.

A State Department inspector general report affirmed that Pompeo acted within his legal authority to issue the emergency declaration, but House Democrats said the watchdog probe pointed to a manufactured crisis to push through the arms deal.

Pompeo on Wednesday said that “Iran’s ballistic missile attacks” in September 2019 on Saudi oil processing plants and the “ongoing Houthi bombardment” from Yemen and backed by Tehran underscored the need for Washington to support Riyadh’s security.

Part of the U.S. commitment, Pompeo said, includes opening a new U.S. Embassy in Riyadh in addition to two other American consulates in the country at an investment of more than $1 billion.

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Pompeo said he also raised the issue of Saudi Arabia opening relations with Israel, following the signing of the Abraham Accords last month that established diplomatic ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing its relationships as well. We want to thank them for the assistance they've had in the success of the Abraham accords, so far,” he said.

The secretary said he hopes Riyadh will encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel and called the kingdom a “stabilizing force” in the region.

Pompeo said he raised the issue of human rights reform in the kingdom with his Saudi counterpart “to allow free expression and peaceful activism” and called for the lifting of a travel ban on Walid Fitaihi, a dual U.S. and Saudi citizen who is under restrictions over what human rights groups say are politicized criminal charges.

“No matter what issues arise our two nations will address them in the spirit of candor, partnership and respect,” Pompeo said.