DUBAI, April 28 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks aired on Tuesday that the United States was a strategic partner and that Riyadh had only a few differences with the Biden administration which it was working to resolve.
The kingdom’s de facto ruler also said Saudi Arabia would not accept any pressure or interference in its internal affairs.
President Joe Biden, who has said he would only speak with his Saudi counterpart King Salman, has taken a tougher stand with Riyadh on its human rights record and the Yemen war than predecessor Donald Trump, who had strong ties with Prince Mohammed.
“We are more than 90% in agreement with the Biden administration when it comes to Saudi and U.S. interests and we are working to strengthen these interests,” the prince said in an interview on Saudi TV.
“The matters we disagree on represent less than 10% and we are working to find solutions and understandings … there is no doubt that the United States is a strategic partner,” he added.
Prince Mohammed, who became crown prince in 2017 and has consolidated power since, said Saudi Arabia is also building strategic partnerships with Russia, India and China.
The Biden administration earlier this year released a U.S. intelligence report implicating the crown prince in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but spared him any direct punishment. The prince denies any involvement.
It has also withdrawn support for offensive operations by a Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.
The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran which are locked in a rivalry for regional influence.
Prince Mohammed said his country wanted good ties with Iran, with which Riyadh severed diplomatic ties in 2016.
“Our problem is with Iran‘s negative behaviour,” he said, mentioning Tehran’s nuclear programme, missiles programme and support for proxies around the region.
“We are working with our regional and global partners to find solutions to these problems and we hope to overcome them for good relations that benefit everyone,” he added.
Regional sources have said that Saudi and Iranian officials held direct talks in Iraq this month aimed at easing tensions, with discussions focused on Yemen and efforts to revive global powers’ 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.
Saudi Arabia supported Trump’s decision in 2018 to quit the pact and reimpose sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded by breaching several nuclear restrictions.
Asked about Yemen, Prince Mohammed said no state wanted an armed militia along its borders and urged the Houthis to “sit at the negotiating table.”
Riyadh last month presented a nationwide ceasefire proposal for Yemen but the Houthis have yet to accept it.
(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Richard Pullin)