December 11, 2017 / 1:49 PM / 8 months ago

Senior Saudi prince condemns Trump's 'opportunistic' Jerusalem move

DUBAI (Reuters) - Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal has criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in one of the sharpest reactions emanating from the U.S.-allied kingdom.

In a letter to Trump published in a Saudi newspaper on Monday, Prince Turki, a former ambassador to Washington who now holds no government office but remains influential, called the move a domestic political ploy which would stoke violence.

“Bloodshed and mayhem will definitely follow your opportunistic attempt to make electoral gain,” Prince Turki wrote in a letter published in the Saudi newspaper al-Jazeera.

Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy and veered from international consensus last week by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most countries say the city’s status must be left to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Your action has emboldened the most extreme elements in the Israeli society ... because they take your action as a license to evict the Palestinians from their lands and subject them to an apartheid state,” Prince Turki wrote.

“Your action has equally emboldened Iran and its terrorist minions to claim that they are the legitimate defenders of Palestinian rights,” he added, referring to the kingdom’s arch-foe Shi’ite Iran.

Saudi Arabia has sought better ties with Washington under Trump than it had under his predecessor Barack Obama, who alarmed Riyadh by signing a nuclear agreement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy.

Prince Turki is a son of King Faisal, who was assassinated in 1975. His brother, Saud al-Faisal, served as foreign minister for 40 years until 2015, and their branch of the family is seen as influential over Saudi foreign policy, even as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has solidified his authority.

Prince Saud championed a 2002 Arab peace initiative which called for normalizing relations between Arab countries and Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories.

Although most foreign policy in Saudi Arabia is now overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed, a source at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies which Prince Turki chairs said he still meets King Salman every week.

Reporting by Tom Miles and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Peter Graff

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