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US foreign policy

‘So much at stake,’ Biden’s pick to be US envoy to Saudi Arabia says

“Energy supplies and encouraging a Saudi energy policy that aligns with US priorities will be a major focus of my discussions with the Saudi government,” Michael Ratney told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next US ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Thursday that there was “so much at stake” in the relationship between Washington and Riyadh.

Michael Ratney said he was committed to a strong and sustainable US-Saudi partnership, adding that energy supplies would be a big part of his talks with the Saudi government. “Energy supplies and encouraging a Saudi energy policy that aligns with US priorities will be a major focus of my discussions with the Saudi government,” he said at his nomination hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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“If confirmed, I am committed to a strong and sustainable US-Saudi partnership that advances US interests and reflects US values,” Ratney said.

He also said he would encourage the modernization project in Saudi Arabia and build on the “vital” counterterrorism cooperation.

Ratney will look to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory and deter Iran’s “aggressive” behavior. Ending the war in Yemen and deepening engagement on human rights would also be priorities, Ratney said.

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen launched more than 400 cross-border attacks last year on civilian targets, endangering 70,000 US citizens and the Saudi population. Ratney said he wanted to help strengthen Saudi defenses through security cooperation and training, “demonstrating the durable American commitment to our partners and allies and to our values.”

The Yemeni group’s principal backers, Iran, pose a significant threat to US and Saudi interests, Ratney said. “We must work with our Saudi partners to counter Iranian threats to global energy flows, regional stability, and the lives of our fellow US citizens in the region.”

Ratney, currently serving as the acting deputy director of the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), also lauded Saudi Arabia for helping reach a truce in Yemen. “This truce would not have been possible without Saudi Arabia’s support,” he said, adding that he would look to transform the truce into a durable resolution.

Read more: US President Biden to visit Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman

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