Saudi Arabia set for diplomatic shift away from US

Saudi Arabia set for diplomatic shift away from US

Intelligence chief tells diplomats he plans to limit interaction with US in protest at its policies on Syria, Israel and Iran, the Guardian reported.

Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a "major shift" in dealings with the US in protest at perceived American inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

The source said that Prince Bandar bin Sultan had told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed a 2011 anti-government revolt.

It was not immediately clear whether Prince Bandar's reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.

In an unprecedented move last week, Saudi Arabia rejected its first offer of a seat on the UN security council and denounced the UN for failing to resolve world conflicts. The move appeared largely directed at the US.

"The shift away from the US is a major one," the source said on Tuesday. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.

"Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the US. This happened after the US failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.

"Relations with the US have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the US is growing closer with Iran and the US also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising."

The source declined to provide more details of Bandar's talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days. But he suggested that the planned change in relations would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.

Many US economic interests in Saudi Arabia involve government contracts in defence, other security sectors, healthcare, education, information technology and construction.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, appeared keen to play down suggestions of a serious rift between Washington and Riyadh. Speaking after talks about the Syria crisis in London on Tuesday, he said he had held two meetings with the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal in as many days.

"Saudi Arabia signed on to this [Syria] communique," he said. "Saudi Arabia and the US agree on a great deal going forward. We know they were disappointed that the strike [against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons] didn't take place and have concerns about other things taking place in the region" - an apparent reference to the thaw in US relations with Iran, the conservative kingdom's strategic rival in the Gulf.

On Iran, Kerry said he had told his Saudi counterpart. "I reiterated our position - in any negotiation [with Iran] -that our eyes are wide open, actions are what will speak to us, not words, and 'no deal' is better than a bad deal."

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