denounces Saudi

Saudi king denounces Iran’s ‘expansionism’ in fiery UN speech –

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz took aim at Iran during his debut on Wednesday at the annual United Nations meeting of world leaders, calling for a comprehensive solution to contain Riyadh’s regional rival and to stop it from getting weapons of mass destruction.

He said Iran has exploited a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism”, adding this had produced nothing but “chaos, extremism, and sectarianism”.

“A comprehensive solution and a firm international position are required,” he told the 193-member General Assembly in a video statement. “Our experience with the Iranian regime has taught us that partial solutions and appeasement did not stop its threats to international peace and security.”

Iran’s UN mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi rejected what he called “the baseless allegations”.

“The unconstructive and unwarranted statement by the Saudi leader only emboldens certain powers who are intent in sowing discord among regional countries with the aim of creating permanent division and selling more deadly weapons to the region,” he said in an apparent swipe at the United States.

Sunni Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran are locked in several proxy wars in the region, including in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Tehran-aligned Houthi movement over five years.

King Salman, 84, said the Middle East has been suffering from major political and security challenges, blaming Iran for much of the region’s instability. He also accused the Iran-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon of sowing the political disarray that has been ultimately blamed for the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port last month.

“This terrorist organisation must be disarmed,” the king said.

‘Forces of evil’

Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US official and CEO of political risk consultancy STRATEGA, noted King Salman prefaced his comments about Iran with the phrase “forces of evil”, adding Saudi Arabia is still sensitive about an “unanswered” attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities last year that was blamed on Tehran.

“That continues to be a sore spot and to have it articulated by the king of Saudi Arabia before the entire world shows the importance the king still attaches to how the United States handles Iran and its policy in the region,” Mann Leverett told Al Jazeera. “It’s a question about whether the Trump administration would really come to their defence if something even worse happened to them.”

Reading from a piece of paper and seated at a desk under a large portrait of his father, King Salman reiterated the sacred role of Islam in Saudi Arabia, which Muslims believe was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago in the mountainous caves of Mecca.

He refrained from criticising the recent deals struck by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain to establish ties with Israel. But on attempts to mediate peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the Saudi monarch said a 2002 Arab peace initiative is the basis for a “comprehensive and just solution” ensuring the Palestinians obtain an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“We support the efforts of the current US administration to achieve peace in the Middle East by bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiation table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement,” said Salman.

King Salman reiterated the need for a Palestinian state [File: Waleed Ali/AP]

‘A real rejection’

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, drew up the 2002 initiative by which Arab nations offered to normalise ties with Israel in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.

Palestinian leaders have condemned the UAE and Bahrain’s warming of relations with Israel, describing it as a betrayal of their efforts to win statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mann Leverett noted there have been reports about differences within the royal family, particularly between King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on whether Saudi Arabia will follow others in the region and normalise ties with Israel.

“So this was an opportunity to publicly before the world reiterate Saudi Arabia’s long-standing position … that there needs to be two states – an independent state of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem. That’s a clear re-affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s stand and a real rejection of the current efforts to push Arab states to normalise with Israel. That was critically important,” she said.

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Royal Saudi

Saudi Royal Family Divides Over Potential Embrace of Israel – The Wall Street Journal

An argument is raging behind palace doors in Saudi Arabia: Now that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have forged ties with Israel, should the kingdom follow suit?

Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has been at odds with his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over embracing the Jewish state. The king is a longtime supporter of the Arab boycott of Israel and the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state. The prince wants to move past what he sees as an intractable conflict to join with Israel in business and align against Iran.

When President Trump announced on Aug. 13 that Israel and the U.A.E. were normalizing diplomatic ties, the deal stunned the 84-year-old king, who had just begun his summer holiday, according to people familiar with the matter, including Saudi advisers. His son wasn’t so surprised.

Prince Mohammed feared his father might block a deal that didn’t do enough to advance the cause of Palestinian statehood, those people said. If the king of Saudi Arabia, the biggest economy in the Middle East and the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, didn’t support it, the neighboring Emiratis would be hard-pressed to move ahead. Prince Mohammed didn’t tell his father about the planned accord, which didn’t mention Palestinian statehood. Israel agreed only to suspend plans to annex parts of Israeli-occupied territory in the West Bank in return for diplomatic recognition from the U.A.E.

A furious King Salman later ordered his foreign minister to restate the kingdom’s commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state, without mentioning the normalization deal. A royal family member close to him wrote an op-ed in a Saudi-owned newspaper reiterating that position and implying the Emiratis should have pressed the Israelis for more concessions.

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Saudi court issues final verdicts in Khashoggi murder, sentencing 8 to prison – Fox News

Saudi court has issued final verdicts Monday in the 2018 killing of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, sentencing eight to prison, according to state television.

The names of those convicted were not made public, but Riyadh Criminal Court reportedly ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for five. Another received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.

Yet the trial has been widely criticized by rights groups and an independent U.N. investigator, who noted that no senior officials nor anyone suspected of ordering the killing were found guilty. The independence of the court has also been brought into question.


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman smiles as he attends the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2src18. Prince Mohammed has denied any knowledge of the operation that resulted in Khashoggi's death. (AP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman smiles as he attends the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2018. Prince Mohammed has denied any knowledge of the operation that resulted in Khashoggi’s death. (AP)

Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns for the Washington Post. He’d been living in exile in the United States for about a year as Prince Mohammed oversaw a crackdown in Saudi Arabia on human rights activists, writers and critics of the kingdom’s devastating war in Yemen.

Khashoggi was killed in late 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the Saudi Consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.


Western intelligence agencies, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said the crown prince bears ultimate responsibility for the killing and that an operation of this magnitude could not have happened without his knowledge. But the crown prince has denied any knowledge of the operation.

Salah Khashoggi, one of the writer’s sons, lives in Saudi Arabia and has received financial compensation from the royal court for his father’s killing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Saudi Arabia says Hajj pilgrimage is on — with limited numbers – CNN

(CNN)Saudi Arabia will strictly limit the number of people who can take part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca because of the coronavirus, according to state-run media.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the annual pilgrimage would be restricted to a very limited numbers of pilgrims of all nationalities who are already residing in the country, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
A statement from the ministry said that as Covid-19 cases continue to grow globally, and because of the risks of coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and from other countries, the Hajj will “take place this year with a limited number of pilgrims from all nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia only, who are willing to perform Hajj.”
“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is safely performed while committing to all preventive measures to protect Muslims and adhere strictly to the teachings of Islam in preserving our health and safety,” according to the statement.
The ministry statement cited the Saudi Ministry of Health as saying that the risks from coronavirus “are expected to grow further, but there is no vaccine available yet for those infected by the disease. Global health security needs to be preserved.”
The ministry said it would be challenging to maintain a proper distance in crowded areas and prevent the spread of the virus.
Based on these concerns, the Hajj Ministry statement said, “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose top priority is to always provide care to enable Muslims to perform Hajj or Umrah rites safely and securely, has taken severe precautionary measures to protect pilgrims since the beginning of COVID-19.”
Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 160,000 cases and 1,307 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
More than two million Muslims performed Hajj last year, and of those, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part.
In April, Saudi Arabia advised Muslims planning on attending the pilgrimage to put their plans on hold. Indonesia, which had planned to send 221,000 pilgrims to Mecca this year, announced June 2 it would not be sending anyone because of virus concerns.
Performing the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is one of the biggest religious gatherings in the world. Hajj occurs two months and 10 days after Ramadan ends, during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah.
The Hajj is scheduled this year to start at the end of July.
The height of Hajj corresponds with the major Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son on Divine orders.

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Saudi Arabia: Executions scrapped for crimes committed as minors – Al Jazeera English

Capital punishment for crimes committed under the age of 18 runs contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [File: EPA]

Capital punishment for crimes committed under the age of 18 runs contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [File: EPA]

Saudi Arabia will no longer impose the death sentence on individuals who committed crimes while still minors, the state-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) has said in a statement citing a royal decree by King Salman.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s biggest executioners after Iran and China, Amnesty International said in its latest annual report earlier this month.


“The decree means that any individuals who received a death sentence for crimes committed while he or she is a minor can no longer face execution. Instead, the individual will receive a prison sentence of no longer than 10 years in a juvenile detention facility,” HRC President Awwad Alawwad said in the statement on Sunday.

“This is an important day for Saudi Arabia,” Alawwad said. “The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code, and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to following through on key reforms across all sectors of our country.”

It was not immediately clear when the decree would take effect.

In its report, Amnesty said Saudi Arabia executed 184 people in 2019, including at least one person charged with a crime committed as a minor.

Sunday’s announcement came just two days after the kingdom, in effect, abolished flogging as punishment, in a decision made by the General Commission for the Supreme Court.

The punishment will instead be replaced by prison time or fines.

Capital punishment for crimes committed by people under the age of 18 runs contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Saudi Arabia has ratified.

In April 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 men convicted of “terrorism” charges. The UN human rights chief said at the time that most of them were Shia Muslims who may not have had fair trials and at least three were minors when sentenced.

Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has grown since King Salman named his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as crown prince and heir to the throne in June 2017.

MBS has launched a series of social and economic reforms aimed at modernising the conservative kingdom, which has no codified system of law to go with the texts making up Islamic law.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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