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‘New era’ begins in US-Saudi relationship, Pompeo tells Saudi Arabian FM

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The US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue that kicked off Wednesday in Washington marks a new era in ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“This Strategic Dialogue between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that Prince Faisal and I launched today marks a new era in our relationship,” the US diplomat said during a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

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Both diplomats were speaking after the first meeting between US and Saudi officials at the inaugural dialogue.

“Our conversations this morning reflected a mutual willingness to grow not only our security and economic ties, but our whole partnership,” Pompeo said.

He revealed that the US was in talks to acquire 26 acres in Riyadh for a new US embassy.

Discussions also touched on regional security, including Iran’s malign behaviour, which Pompeo said was threatening the Kingdom’s security and was disrupting global commerce.

“Today we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to countering Iranian malign activity, and the threat it poses to regional security and prosperity,” Pompeo said. He added that the US supported “a robust program of arm sales to Saudi Arabia, a line of effort that helps the Kingdom protect its citizens and sustains American jobs.”

For his part, Prince Faisal condemned Iran’s “continuing destabilizing behaviour,” citing its financial and material support to terrorist groups, including the Houthis in Yemen.

He cited the more than 300 Iranian-made ballistic missiles and drones fired by the Houthis towards the Kingdom. “Their development of their nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and their malign activities represent a grave danger to the region and the world,” Prince Faisal said.

Read more: Saudi Arabia’s FM heads to Washington for first US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue talks

The Saudi FM reiterated the Kingdom’s support for a “comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”

Prince Faisal warned of an environment catastrophe that “will irreparably damage Yemen’s coastline and marine life in the region.” He was referring to the FSO Safer, an aging oil tanker, on the Red Sea which the Houthis have repeatedly refused full access to.

Meanwhile, Pompeo urged Saudi Arabia to consider normalizing relations with Israel, while thanking the Kingdom for “assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed peace deals with Israel last month in a US-brokered deal at the White House.

For his part, Prince Faisal said the Strategic Dialogues comes at “a very important time.”

“Our strong partnership is vital in confronting the forces of extremism and terrorism that threaten our security and prosperity,” he said.

Read more: Saudi Arabia commerce head urges end to business with Turkish companies in Kingdom