Trump's Saudi envoy pick: U.S. needs 'strong and mature partnership' with Riyadh

Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi

"In the long run, we need a strong and mature partnership with Saudi Arabia", Abizaid told the committee, according to Reuters.

Rubio's remark came during retired General John Abizaid's nomination hearing on Wednesday to be the Trump administration's first ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Abizaid said despite the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, alleged abuses of innocent people and Saudi involvement in the war in Yemen, it is in the United States interests to "make sure that the relationship is sound".

At least 36 countries including all 28 members of the European Union have signed a statement criticising Saudi Arabia's human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday, diplomats said. "It's about a government".

Since taking office, Trump hasn't had an ambassador in Riyadh.

The Saudi crown prince and his leadership have come under heavy criticism and increasing scrutiny from Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the wake of the killing of US resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.

The EU and other sponsoring countries said they "condemn in the strongest possible terms" the killing of Khashoggi, noting that Saudi Arabia has confirmed it took place at its Istanbul consulate on October 2.

The years-long war in Yemen, where Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Houthi rebels, however, was not even touched-on by the "damning" statement. Many from both parties already had serious misgivings about US support for the kingdom's ongoing war in Yemen, which has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis and tens of thousands of casualties.

The House of Representatives has passed a war powers resolution that would end all US support for the Saudi-led coalition, but Abizaid said the Trump administration believes strongly that USA support should continue.

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"Doing so bolsters the self-defense capabilities of our partners and reduces the risk of harm to civilians", Abizaid said.

It was also the confirmation hearing for Matthew Tueller, the current US ambassador to Yemen and Trump's nominee to be ambassador to Iraq. And the Daily Beast is reporting that Kushner, according to three anonymous sources, did not share the details of the meetings with members of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. Countries at the Human Rights Council should support the joint statement, which is a rare and significant opportunity to press Saudi Arabia over its human rights abuses.

"As a member of the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia is required to maintain the 'highest standards of human rights, ' yet there is a massive gap between the country's dismal rights record and the global standards it is sworn to uphold", Fisher said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has insisted that the women's rights activists are being held on national security grounds rather than as part of a wider crackdown on dissent.

Saudi Arabia began detaining the activists in May, just weeks ahead of the lifting of the ban on women driving for which many of them had campaigned.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's highest ranking Democrat, acknowledged the strategic importance of Saudi ties, but said the USA "cannot let these interests blind us to our values or to our long term interests in stability". "But we can not let these interests blind us to our values or to our long term interests in stability", Menendez said. But Menendez asked Abizaid if he would insist on being fully informed about all White House interactions with the Saudis.

"He's gone full gangster", said Republican Sen.

While contradicted by some USA military and intelligence officials, Trump has declared that Islamic State has been driven out of all its territory since announcing in December that he would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. Some have argued that Trump regularly acts like the beholden to the kingdom when in reality it should be seen from the alternative perspective.

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