Prince Mohammed bin Salman warns against agreeing to weak nuclear deal with Iran

In a wide-ranging interview with 'The Atlantic', Prince Mohammed discussed Israel, Iran and Vision 2030

Prince Mohammed rejected during the interview the idea that Saudi Arabia was moving away from its roots and becoming more like the US. AP

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he does not view Israel as an enemy and warned world powers against agreeing to a weak nuclear deal with Iran.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Atlantic, the transcript of which was shared by Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, Prince Mohammed discussed Israel, Iran and Vision 2030.

Prince Mohammed rejected the idea that Saudi Arabia was moving away from its roots and becoming more like the US.

“We are trying to evolve based on what we have, economic assets and utilising the potential of the Saudi people, the culture of Saudi Arabia, our background and we try to evolve this way,” he said.

He cited the development of AlUla as well as the Diriyah and Jeddah old town projects as examples of development with Saudi identity at their hearts.

Prince Mohammed said the kingdom’s economic prospects were also improving and he expects the economy to grow by about 7 per cent in 2023.

Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product grew by 5.6 per cent in 2021, he explained, without indicating a growth target for 2022.

Looking outward, Prince Mohammed also spoke about the country's neighbours, saying he viewed Israel as a possible ally with shared interests, but that it should resolve the conflict with the Palestinians first.

“We do not view Israel as an enemy, but rather as a potential ally in the many interests that we can pursue together. But some issues must be resolved before we get to that.”

In comments that the official Saudi Press Agency attributed to the interview with The Atlantic but which were not published, Prince Mohammed continued: “We hope that the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be resolved.”

On Iran, Prince Mohammed said that, as it is a neighbour, the two countries should find a way to coexist. World powers are now engaged in a final bout of intense diplomacy in an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

“We have had discussions, and we have heard many statements from Iranian leaders that are very welcome in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“I hope we can reach a position that is good for both countries and a bright future for Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“I believe any country around the world that has a nuclear bomb — that's dangerous, regardless if it's Iran or any other country. So we don't want to see that.

“And also, we don’t want to see a weak nuclear deal, because that's going to end up with the same conclusion.”

Asked about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, Prince Mohammed denied involvement and said the killing “hurt” him and the kingdom.

The journalist’s body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building but his remains have not been found.

“We've been blamed. I understand the anger, especially among journalists. I respect their feelings,” he said.

“But we also have feelings here, pain here. We feel that we are not treated fairly.

“I feel, myself, that human rights law wasn’t applied to me. Article XI of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that any person is innocent until proven guilty. I didn't get that right.”

He also denied that there is an atmosphere of fear in Saudi Arabia.

“No, I don’t believe that. In any case, if that’s the way we did things, Khashoggi would not even be among the top one thousand people on the list.

“If we assume, for argument’s sake, that we were going to go for an operation like that, it would have been professional and someone on the top of the list.

“So why Khashoggi? That was a really a huge mistake. And we don’t believe in those kind of operations. We don’t believe in any operation outside of the law.”

Five people were sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2020 for their involvement in the murder; three more received 10-year terms and two others received seven years. SPA reported the criminal case had been closed.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 7:54 PM
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