Four Killed As Gunmen Attack Saudi Security Forces

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

Four men were killed Sunday as they attacked a Saudi security services base in a town north of Riyadh, pro-government media reported.

The attack targeted state security forces in the town of Zulfi, 260 kilometres (160 miles) north of the capital, London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.

It said the attackers had rammed a vehicle into a security barrier around the base in an attempt to gain entry.

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Two gunmen then stepped out of the vehicle and opened fire, sparking a gun battle with police, who killed them, the paper reported. A third attempted to flee but was also gunned down, while a fourth died as he tried to set off an explosive belt.

It did not mention any casualties among security personnel.

The Saudi-owned satellite channel Al-Arabiya also reported four people died during an attack, but did not give details.

On April 7, two men armed with explosives were killed and two others arrested as they attacked a security checkpoint in a predominantly Shiite region in eastern Saudi Arabia, which has seen years of demonstrations against the Sunni royal family.

Sunday’s attack took place in a majority Sunni region.

An estimated 10-15 per cent of the ultra-conservative kingdom’s 32 million population is Shiite, although no official figures exist.

AFP

US Citizens Among Eight Arrested In Saudi Crackdown

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman/ AFP

 

Saudi Arabia has arrested at least eight writers and bloggers, including two US citizens, in an apparent crackdown on supporters of detained women activists whose trial has drawn global censure, campaigners said Friday.

News of the arrests came the morning after US lawmakers voted to end military support for a Saudi-led war in neighbouring Yemen, which has triggered what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It also marks the first major crackdown since the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, which sparked unprecedented international scrutiny of the kingdom’s human rights record.

Campaigners identified the US-Saudi dual nationals as writer and doctor Bader al-Ibrahim and Salah al-Haidar, the son of Aziza al-Yousef — a high-profile activist who was temporarily released last week but remains on trial along with other women campaigners.

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The latest round up started on Thursday, a day after the 11 women — some of whom accused interrogators of torture and sexual abuse in detention — returned to court to face charges that include contact with foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups.

But one of them, university lecturer Anas al-Mazrou, was detained last month after he expressed solidarity with the detained women during a panel discussion at the Riyadh book fair, multiple activists said.

London-based rights group ALQST said all eight were “writers and social media bloggers previously engaged in public discourse on reforms” and that the crackdown was linked to their support of women activists on trial.

Prisoners of Conscience, a Saudi group that tracks political prisoners, put the number of people arrested at 10.

“Saudi authorities seem to be hellbent on silencing anyone who dares to speak up or even voice their opinions privately and publicly,” Amnesty International’s Middle East campaigns director Samah Hadid told AFP.

“This goes beyond just attacking activists and now seems to target different segments of society. This is a dangerous pattern.”

 Pressure to stay silent 

There was no immediate comment from Saudi authorities or the US embassy in Riyadh.

“What is disturbing about new Saudi arrests is that waves of arrests keep moving from most-known to successively lesser knowns,” Saudi-American activist Nora Abdulkarim said on Twitter.

“Another confusing aspect is timing, leaves one asking: ‘why now?'”

Riyadh has faced pressure from major Western powers to release the women on trial, most of whom were detained last summer in a wide-ranging crackdown against activists just before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female motorists.

Three of them — activist Aziza al-Yousef, blogger Eman al-Nafjan and preacher Rokaya al-Mohareb — were granted temporary release last week.

Before their provisional release, the three freed women and their bail guarantors were made to sign a pledge that they will stay away from the media, according to multiple people with access to the trial.

The siblings of one of the prominent detainees, activist Loujain al-Hathloul, this week said they were being pressured by people close to the Saudi state to stay silent over her treatment in detention.

People close to the Saudi establishment have warned that public criticism by family members could prolong their detention.

“A reminder: we are not going to stay silent,” Loujain’s sister Alia al-Hathloul tweeted on Friday.

At an emotionally charged hearing last week, some women broke down as they accused interrogators of subjecting them to electric shocks, flogging and groping in detention, two people with access to the trial told AFP.

A Saudi prosecutor roundly rejected the accusations in the latest court hearing on Wednesday, witnesses said, reiterating the government’s stance.

The next hearing in the trial, which foreign media and diplomats are barred from attending, is scheduled for April 17, activists say.

AFP

Saudi Faces Criticism At UN Over Khashoggi Murder

Khashoggi Killers 'Will Be Prosecuted In Saudi Arabia' - Govt
Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Credit: MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFPkhashoggi

 

Thirty-six nations condemned Saudi Arabia on Thursday over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a rare censure of the oil-rich kingdom at the UN Human Rights Council. 

A statement read by Iceland on behalf of a group of states expressed “significant concerns” about reported abuses in Saudi Arabia and demanded justice following Khashoggi’s killing.

“Investigations into the killing must be prompt, effective and thorough, independent and impartial, and transparent. Those responsible must be held to account,” added the statement read by Iceland’s UN ambassador Harald Aspelund.

It called on Saudi authorities “to disclose all information available” about its own investigation while cooperating with separate UN inquiries into Khashoggi’s death.

The statement was backed by EU states along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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Human Rights Watch said the statement was “the first-ever collective action” at the council on rights in Saudi Arabia, which had successfully evaded criticism at the UN body.

HRW’s Geneva director John Fisher called it “a landmark step toward justice” and urged “more scrutiny” of the country.

Responding to the statement, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva condemned the use of “joint statements for political causes.”

“Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty,” ambassador Abdulaziz Alwasil said.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi Arabia initially said it had no knowledge of his fate.

It has since blamed rogue agents for Khashoggi’s death and the kingdom’s public prosecutor has charged 11 people over his murder.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, is conducting an inquiry into the killing.

But Callamard is an independent human rights expert who does not speak for the UN and calls have mounted for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to push for a full UN-backed probe.

AFP

Saudi Executes Bangladeshi For Diplomat’s Murder

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

 

A Bangladeshi man was hanged in a jail outside Dhaka over the murder of a Saudi diplomat in 2012, an official said Monday.

Khalaf Al Ali, 45, who worked in the consular section of the Saudi Arabian embassy, was shot in the capital’s diplomatic zone in front of his rented apartment. He later died in hospital.

Police at that time said 30-year-old Saiful Islam, who was hanged on Sunday, led the gang who tried to rob the diplomat.

“He was executed in accordance with a court order,” prison official Shahjahan Ahmed told AFP.

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The Supreme Court in August upheld Islam’s death sentence. He was originally sentenced to death in 2013 by a trial court which described him as the main perpetrator of the killing.

More than two million Bangladeshis are working in Saudi Arabia, which is a key ally of the South Asian country and a major donor.

Bangladesh regularly executes death row convicts despite criticism from human rights groups.

In recent years at least five top Islamist leaders, who have been convicted of war crimes, and nearly a dozen Islamist extremists were executed — all by hanging — in high-security prisons.

AFP

Four Executed For Murder In Saudi Arabia

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia on Sunday executed four Yemenis found guilty of murdering a security guard, the kingdom’s interior ministry said. 

The four men robbed and killed a Pakistani man who worked as a security guard at a company, said a ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The execution took place in Mecca, the statement added.

Twenty people have been executed in the kingdom since the beginning of the year, according to the authorities.

The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world’s highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia carried out the death sentences of 120 people.

AFP

Saudi Crown Prince Must Be ‘Dealt With’ Over Khashoggi Murder – US Senator

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman                   Slain Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi

 

A key US senator on Saturday said the Saudi crown prince was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and must be “dealt with”, as he threatened new sanctions.

Republican Lindsey Graham, an influential ally of President Donald Trump, has previously said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the grisly killing of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi in October.

“I have concluded that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States cannot move forward until MBS has been dealt with,” Graham said, using the initials for the crown prince.

Graham also threatened new sanctions against those suspected of involvement in the murder during a press conference in Ankara.

Western countries including the US, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals as the case has tarnished Riyadh’s international reputation.

“We will start sanctioning those involved in the killing of Mr Khashoggi. We’ll make a definitive statement that MBS knew about it and is responsible for it and come up with a series of sanctions,” the South Carolina lawmaker said.

Turkey says Khashoggi was killed by a team of 15 Saudis who strangled him during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork ahead of his upcoming marriage.

The remains of the insider turned critic of the kingdom have yet to be found, three months after this murder.

Riyadh has denied any claims of the crown prince’s involvement but the case has caused strains with Washington.

Earlier this month the trial of 11 accused opened in Saudi Arabia with the attorney general seeking the death penalty for five defendants.

Graham acknowledged that he had been “enthusiastic” in his support of Prince Mohammed but accepted he had been “wrong”.

“What has transpired in the last couple of years is unnerving to say the least,” he said.

Graham said the sanctions were intended to send the message that the murder was “not what you do if you’re an ally of the United States”.

AFP

Pompeo To Press Saudi Crown Prince Over Khashoggi’s Murder

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday arrived in Riyadh, where he is set to press Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to hold the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi accountable.

The top US diplomat, on an extensive Middle East tour, embarked on his second politically sensitive visit to Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi’s murder inside its Istanbul consulate sparked an international outcry.

“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo told reporters in Qatar, before flying to the Saudi capital.

“We’ll… make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable, certainly by the Saudis but by the United States as well.”

After landing in Riyadh, Pompeo pushed for Saudi Arabia to continue its investigation into the murder, in talks with Adel al-Jubeir, minister of state for foreign affairs, and the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was murdered on October 2 in what Saudi Arabia called a “rogue” operation, tipping the kingdom into one of its worst diplomatic crises and subsequently straining ties between Riyadh and Washington.

Pompeo’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he will be hosted by Prince Mohammed, is part of an extensive eight-day trip to Amman, Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, and finally Kuwait City.

Smiles with MBS 

US President Donald Trump has brushed aside international outrage to stand by Prince Mohammed over the murder of Khashoggi, whose corpse was dismembered at the consulate.

His support has come despite the US Central Intelligence Agency’s reported conclusion that Prince Mohammed very likely ordered the murder. A bipartisan resolution approved by the US Senate last month also held the crown prince responsible for the killing.

Riyadh prosecutors have announced indictments against 11 people and are seeking the death penalty against five of them. But Prince Mohammed, whose right-hand aides were allegedly involved in the murder, was exonerated by prosecutors.

On a previous visit to Riyadh at the height of the Khashoggi affair, Pompeo’s broad smiles with the crown prince outraged some Americans.

However, Trump has said Washington wants to preserve the alliance with the oil-rich kingdom, which he sees as a bulwark against common foe Iran and a lucrative buyer of US arms.

Rights groups have called on Pompeo to also press Prince Mohammed over the jailing of women activists in the kingdom, amid claims that some of them faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation.

“I am struck by what is not included in Pompeo’s itinerary: the brave women activists of Saudi Arabia, who are being held in the kingdom’s prisons for seeking rights and dignity,” Alia al-Hathloul wrote in The New York Times Sunday.

Hathloul’s sister, Loujain, is among more than a dozen activists arrested last May — just before the historic lifting of Saudi Arabia’s decades-long ban on women drivers.

Gulf crisis 

Pompeo met the Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during his visit to Doha, where he refused to comment on reports Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran.

He also called on Qatar and other Gulf countries to end the worst political rift in the region for years, which has seen Doha diplomatically and economically isolated by neighbouring former allies for the past 19 months.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — all US allies — cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and seeking closer ties to Saudi arch-rival Iran.

Qatar — also a US ally — denies the allegations and accuses the countries of seeking regime change.

“As for the GCC… we are all more powerful when we’re working together when we have common challenges in the region and around the world,” Pompeo said, referring to the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful.”

He added that “President Trump and I both believe the ongoing dispute in the region has gone on too long”.

However, Pompeo later admitted in a Q&A session with US embassy staff in Doha that no progress was made on resolving the issue.

Mediation efforts by the United States, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of US envoy Anthony Zinni.

For Washington, turning the page on the crisis is essential for the successful launch of the Strategic Alliance of the Middle East (MESA), which is a NATO-style security pact that includes Gulf countries as well as Egypt and Jordan.

The US and Qatar held the second “strategic dialogue” between the two countries on Sunday and signed agreements on defence, education and culture.

AFP

Saudi Arabia Must Hold Khashoggi Killers ‘Accountable’ – Pompeo

Khashoggi Killers 'Will Be Prosecuted In Saudi Arabia' - Govt
Jamal Khashoggi/ AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that he would ask Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ensure the murderers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are held “accountable”.

 

The top US diplomat, on an extensive Middle East tour, spoke ahead of a politically sensitive visit to Saudi Arabia, which has faced intense international scrutiny over Khashoggi’s murder inside its Istanbul consulate.

“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo told reporters at a press conference in Qatar.

“So, we’ll continue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable, certainly by the Saudis but by the United States as well.”

Pompeo is due to travel to Saudi Arabia later on Sunday as part of an eight-day trip to Amman, Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, and finally Kuwait City.

He was speaking to journalists in Doha after meeting his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

He will meet the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, before heading to Saudi Arabia.

 Smiles with MBS 

Khashoggi was killed on October 2 in a case which stunned the world and threatened a serious rift between Riyadh and Washington.

The journalist was murdered and his corpse dismembered inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

Evidence subsequently emerged that the killing was done by a team of Saudis sent from Riyadh and closely linked to the crown prince. Washington subsequently demanded a transparent investigation.

Riyadh prosecutors have announced indictments against 11 people, and are seeking the death penalty against five of them.

But Prince Mohammed, whose right-hand aides were allegedly involved in the murder, was exonerated by prosecutors despite US intelligence reportedly having evidence that he was behind it.

On a previous visit to Riyadh at the height of the Khashoggi affair, Pompeo’s broad smiles with the crown prince outraged some Americans.

However, US President Donald President Trump has said Washington wants to preserve the alliance with the kingdom, although the US Senate has clearly blamed Prince Mohammed for the murder.

Washington is eager for regional unity to gain widespread support its fight against Iran.

Pompeo refused on Sunday to comment on reports that Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran.

 Gulf crisis 

He also called on Qatar and other Gulf countries to end the worst political rift in the region for years, which has seen Doha diplomatically and economically isolated by neighbouring former allies for the past 19 months.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — all US allies — cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and seeking closer ties to Saudi arch-rival Iran.

Qatar — also a US ally — denies the allegations and accuses the countries of seeking regime change.

“As for the GCC… we are all more powerful when we’re working together when we have common challenges in the region and around the world,” Pompeo said, referring to the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful.

“We’re hopeful that unity in the GCC will increase in the days and weeks and months ahead.”

He added that “President Trump and I both believe the ongoing dispute in the region has gone on too long”.

Washington, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, has so far been unsuccessful in trying to end the dispute.

Attempts at mediation have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of US envoy Anthony Zinni.

“It was time for a change and he made his decision to move on but America’s commitment remains unchanged,” said Pompeo of Zinni.

For Washington, turning the page on the crisis is essential for the successful launch of the Strategic Alliance of the Middle East (MESA), which is a NATO-style security pact that includes Gulf countries as well as Egypt and Jordan.

The US and Qatar held the second “strategic dialogue” between the two countries on Sunday, and signed agreements on defence, education and culture.

“This reflects the good and historical relationship between the two countries,” said the Qatari foreign minister.

AFP

Saudi Asylum Seeker In Thailand Pulls Twitter Account Over ‘Threats’

This screen grab from a video released to AFPTV via the Twitter account of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun on January 7, 2019 shows a still of Qunun speaking in Bangkok on January 7. 
Handout / Courtesy of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun / AFP

 

The 18-year-old Saudi asylum seeker who fled her family to Thailand and harnessed the power of Twitter to stave off deportation on Friday abruptly suspended her account, with friends saying she had received death threats.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun’s attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom has been embraced by rights groups as a beacon of defiance against repression.

Thai authorities initially threatened to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait last weekend.

But armed with a smartphone and a hastily opened Twitter account, she forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN’s refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag case bounced across the world.

Qunun alleges abuse by her family — who deny the allegations — and rights groups also said she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in conservative Saudi Arabia.

On Friday afternoon she posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying “I have some good news and some bad news” — shortly after her account was deactivated.

“Rahaf received death threats and for this reason, she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life,” tweeted supporter @nourahfa313, who has flanked Rahaf’s social media campaign with her own updates on Twitter.

“I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don’t know the details,” said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch, adding even threats from online trolls need to be taken seriously.

Rahaf’s swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than 100,000 followers within a week, highlighting her plight and allowing her to avoid the fate of countless other refugees who are quietly sent back home or languish in Bangkok detention centres.

Though her asylum case has moved at lightning speed the mystery over which country will accept Rahaf remains.

Australia has dropped the strongest hints so far after the UN urged the country to accept her but its foreign minister said this week that it was still assessing the request.

Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters Friday that as far as he knows there are “two or three” countries who could offer asylum.

The Southeast Asian country is not a signatory to a convention on refugees and asylum seekers must be referred to a third country.

Until that happens she is under the care of UNHCR in Bangkok.

She has refused to see her father who travelled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.

AFP

Saudi Awards First Major $500m Wind Contract

File photo: King Salman of Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia on Thursday awarded a contract to build a $500 million wind farm, a first for the world’s top oil exporter as it pushes to diversify its energy sector.

A consortium led by France’s EDF and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar won the bid for the 400-megawatt Dumat al-Jandal wind project in the northern Al Jouf province, the Saudi energy ministry said.

“The project will be Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale wind farm,” the ministry said.

“This milestone represents another significant step… towards creating a diversified power sector mix.”

The project will generate power to supply up to 70,000 Saudi households, it added.

Thursday’s announcement comes a day after OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia said its huge oil reserves, already the second largest in the world behind only Venezuela, are even bigger than previously thought.

The energy ministry said proven oil reserves stood at 263.2 billion barrels at the end of last year, up from the figure of 261 billion barrels that has been used for almost three decades.

But Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies have been looking into ways to cut their energy bills and diversify their power sources away from oil, their main export commodity, as prices continue to fluctuate after the 2014 market crash.

Virtually all of Saudi Arabia’s power currently comes from crude or refined oil and natural gas.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year unveiled plans to develop the globe’s biggest solar power project in partnership with Japan’s SoftBank group, which is estimated to cost $200 billion.

The memorandum of understanding seeks to produce up to 200 gigawatts of power by 2030 — about 100 times the capacity of the current biggest projects.

AFP

Saudi King Names New Foreign Minister In Govt Reshuffle

File photo: King Salman of Saudi Arabia

 

King Salman of Saudi Arabia appointed a new foreign minister in a government reshuffle Thursday, a royal decree said.

Ibrahim al-Assaf will replace Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign ministry said citing the decree.

Jubeir will be demoted to minister of state for foreign affairs, it added.

AFP

 

Saudi Arabia Slams US Senate Vote As ‘Interference’

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud/ AFP

 

Saudi Arabia on Monday slammed as “interference” US Senate resolutions over its war in Yemen and critic Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, warning that the move could have repercussions on its strategic ties with Washington.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted on Thursday to end American military support for a Riyadh-led war in Yemen, and separately held Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.

The largely symbolic vote dealt a fresh warning to President Donald Trump, who has staunchly backed the Saudi regime in the face of intense global outrage that analysts say has left the kingdom diplomatically weakened.

“The kingdom condemns the latest position of the US Senate that was based on unsubstantiated allegations and rejects the blatant interference in its internal affairs,” the foreign ministry said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.

On the Yemen measure, which more broadly attacks the president’s prerogative to launch military action, 49 Democrats or their allies voted in favour, along with seven Republicans, while another three Republicans abstained.

The Senate also approved a resolution condemning Khashoggi’s murder and calling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, “responsible” for it.

The Saudi ministry warned that the kingdom would not tolerate any “disrespect” of its rulers.

“This position by the US Senate sends the wrong messages to all those who want to cause a rift in Saudi-US relationship,” the ministry said.

“The kingdom hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the US to avoid any… significant negative impact on this important strategic relationship.”

‘Vulnerable to pressure’ 

A day after the Senate vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again defended US ties with Saudi Arabia on national security grounds, saying the kingdom was a bulwark against common foe Iran.

The Senate resolution acknowledged the US-Saudi ties were “important” but called on Riyadh to “moderate its increasingly erratic foreign policy”.

“Prince Mohammed and Saudi Arabia, even prior to the introduction of the Senate resolution, were discovering that the Khashoggi killing had weakened the kingdom internationally and had made it more vulnerable to pressure,” said James Dorsey, a Middle East expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

The resolutions cannot be debated in the House of Representatives before January, and would likely be vetoed in any case by Trump.

But the Senate votes send a strong message to the White House over anger on both sides of the aisle towards Riyadh.

Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to the Washington Post, was killed on October 2 shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in what Riyadh called a “rogue” operation.

The murder has tarnished Riyadh’s international reputation, and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Sunday called for a “credible” probe into the murder.

Anger at the human cost of the war in Yemen has also prompted a harder line in Congress about the US military’s role in backing Saudi-led coalition strikes against Huthi rebels.

Since the coalition launched its campaign in 2015, the conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. But some rights groups believe the toll to be far higher.

AFP