In a joint press conference on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed speculations about the kingdom’s shifting alliances. Prince Faisal emphasized that Saudi Arabia does not view its relations with the United States and China as a “zero-sum game,” rejecting the notion that it has to choose sides.
Speaking in Riyadh, Prince Faisal stated, “We are all capable of having multiple partnerships and multiple engagements, and the US does the same in many instances. So, I’m not caught up in this really negative view of this. I think we can actually build a partnership that crosses these borders.”
The growing involvement of China in the Middle East was highlighted by the country’s role in brokering a surprise reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March. This development occurred amid recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and the US, primarily concerning oil prices.
However, Blinken clarified, “We’ve also been very clear we’re not asking anyone to choose between the United States and China. We’re simply trying to demonstrate the benefits of our partnership and the affirmative agenda that we bring.”
During the press conference, Prince Faisal also defended the controversial decision to lift Syria’s Arab League suspension, which occurred 12 years ago shortly after the start of the country’s civil war. The United States had criticized Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s invitation to last month’s Arab League meeting in Jeddah.
Explaining the rationale behind the decision, Prince Faisal stated, “The context is that the status quo was not working, and was generating an ever-increasing burden on countries of the region and on the people of Syria,” referring to the refugee crisis resulting from the war. “Regardless of what one thinks about Bashar Al Assad, we took the only pathway to resolving the humanitarian challenges that we face in the aftermath of the Syrian crisis.”
Blinken acknowledged that the US disagreed with Syria’s readmission to the Arab League but stressed their alignment with partners in working towards a peace process, preventing the resurgence of the Daesh group, facilitating humanitarian aid access, and combating the captagon trade.
“I have to admit we are skeptical of Assad’s willingness to take the necessary steps, but we’re aligned with our partners here on what those steps are, and on the ultimate targets,” Blinken added.