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Relations with Riyadh Would Not Last Until MBS was Settled: Graham

WASHINGTON/ANKARA – After meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, US Senator Lindsey Graham said on Saturday that relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia could not move forward as long as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman would not be dealt with, Middle East Eye reported Saturday.
Graham, who played a leading role in denouncing the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October, made the remarks in Ankara one day after holding talks with Erdogan.
Riyadh, who initially denied knowing Khashoggi’s disappearance and then offered contradictory explanations, called the killing a “sneaky operation”, although the CIA concluded that bin Salman (MBS) had given instructions to the mission.
“The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia can not go forward as long as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is not treated,” said the Republican senator, without being more specific.
Graham also said that Congress would restore sanctions against those involved in the killing of Khashoggi.
After leaving Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi became an American resident and wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post, often critical of the Crown Prince.
Saudi officials said bin Salman was unaware of Khashoggi’s murder.
The Saudi authorities have declared, without providing evidence, that the 15-person team of the kingdom’s envoys had been appointed by the deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Asiri, whom the king had fired with Royal Councilor Saud al-Qahtani.
Earlier this month, the trial of 11 Saudis suspected of taking part in Khashoggi’s assassination opened. The prosecutor of the kingdom said that the death penalty was recommended for five of them.
The United States imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials in November for their alleged role in the assassination of Khashoggi.
Turkey, where killing took place and whose authorities revealed horrific details to the media, denounced the lack of transparency and lack of cooperation of the kingdom.
Despite his dismissal, Qahtani would still advise the Crown Prince.
Graham also said on Saturday that he hoped US President Donald Trump would slow the withdrawal of Syrian troops until the destruction of ISIS.
Trump announced last month that IS had been defeated in Syria and that it would result in the withdrawal of US forces from the country.
The President’s decision triggered a war of words between Ankara and Washington, while the United States feared a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Graham said he believed that US Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford was working on a plan with Turkey to remove YPG elements from the Turkish border.
“I hope President Trump will slow down the pull-out until we actually destroy ISIS,” Graham said, using another acronym for IS.
He warned that any precipitous withdrawal could lead to a “nightmare” scenario for Israel because of Iran’s growing influence in the war-torn country and for Turkey because of its national security concerns.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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