Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States said Sunday he wouldn’t call the conflict in Yemen a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, even though he admitted his country is fighting a group supported by Iran.
“This is a war to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a group that is allied and supported by Iran and Hezbollah,” Adel Al-Jubeir said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to the Houthi group that has taken control of key territory in Yemen, including the capital city. “But I wouldn’t call it a proxy war because we are doing this to protect Yemen.”
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, with backing from the U.S., launched airstrikes beginning Thursday against the Houthi rebel forces. So far, Al-Jubeir said, the Saudi government is not considering sending ground troops to the region.
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The ambassador indicated that the actions of Iran will determine the future of relations between the two countries.
“We have encountered many problems, aggression by Iran against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. … We have extended our hand in friendship to the Iranians, and it's been rejected for the past 35 years,” Al-Jubeir said. “We would like to have friendly relations with the Iranians because it's good for the region.”
On the cusp of a potential nuclear deal with Iran, the ambassador said his country would support a verifiable deal if it denied Iran the ability to make nuclear weapons.
"I believe that the negotiations with regards to a nuclear program in Iran are something that the whole world wants to succeed," he said. "We’re waiting to see the results of the negotiations before we assess the deal."
Diplomats from the U.S., Iran, U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia are in Switzerland this weekend attempting to hammer out a framework deal before a self-imposed deadline set for Tuesday.
— Daniel Cooney