Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has praised the kingdom’s relationship with the current US administration just days after President Donald Trump warned that the Middle East country would not survive “two weeks” without US support.
“I love working with him (Trump),” the crown-prince told the US-based Bloomberg publication, adding that the two leaders had “achieved a lot in the Middle East, especially against extremism, extremist ideologies, terrorism and Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant)”.
The 33-year-old said it was normal for allies to have disagreements and one must ultimately accept that “any friend will say good things and bad things”.
“So, you cannot have 100 percent friends saying good things about you, even in your family. You will have misunderstandings. So, we put that in that category.”
At a Mississippi campaign rally on Wednesday, Trump took a jab at Riyadh and said the country would not last “two weeks” if Washington withdrew its military support.
“We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they’re rich? And I love the king, King Salman. But I said ‘King – we’re protecting you – you might not be there for two weeks without us’,” Trump said.
It was not the first time that Trump had criticised Saudi Arabia over the issue. As early as 2015, Trump said Saudi Arabia should have to pay more if it wants US protection.
If Saudi Arabia, which has been making one billion dollars a day from oil, wants our help and protection, they must pay dearly! NO FREEBIES.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2015
Trump’s criticisms have not been limited to Saudi Arabia alone. In his speech to the UN General Assembly, the US president in a similar vein cautioned other unnamed countries against taking advantage of the United States.
“Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends. And we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defence,” Trump said at the time.
Trump also hit out at Washington’s NATO partners at a May summit in Brussels, lamenting that “23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defence.”
In August, Saudi authorities expelled the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh and severed relations with Ottawa, citing a series of tweets in which Canada’s foreign affairs ministry called for the release of jailed Saudi human rights activists, as the reason for the diplomatic flare-up.
Asked why his reaction to Canada differed, the crown prince said the Canadians sought to impose their will on Saudi Arabia and infringe on its sovereignty.
“It’s totally different. Canada, they gave an order to Saudi Arabia on an internal issue. It’s not an opinion of Canada about Saudi Arabia as much as they are giving an order to a different country,” bin Salman said.
“Trump is speaking to his own people inside the United States of America about an issue. And you’ve got the answer now from me.”
Bin Salman was also asked about the fate of Saudi activists detained prior to the lifting of the driving ban imposed on women. The crown prince said that they were not arrested for their activism but rather due to their “connections with agencies of other countries”.
“They have a network, connection with government people, leaking information for the sake [of] these other governments,” he said.
The Saudi government announced in late August that it was seeking the death penalty for five of the activists, including Israa al-Ghomgham, who is the first woman to face capital punishment for human rights-related work, according to rights groups.
Bin Salman accused Qatar, which is under a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, as one of the countries that provided support for the activists.
The blockading quartet accused Qatar of abetting extremists, allegations that Doha has consistently denied.