WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn), top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, on Wednesday met with Princess Reema bint Bandar, the new Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States. The Senators shared their views on holding the Kingdom accountable for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, their concern for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemen civil war, ways to deescalate recent tension in the Persian Gulf, and Congress’ vote to block the recent arm sales to the Kingdom.
“I’m glad to welcome Ambassador Reema bint Bandar to Washington, and appreciated the opportunity to have a frank discussion of key issues in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. We have a shared interest in countering violent extremism and maintaining stability in the Gulf region. But I also raised concerns about the continued bombings of civilian targets and worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the lack of accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the unprecedented level of domestic repression under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – including the persecution of women’s rights activists and young Saudis engaged in non-violent protests,” Murphy said. “The Saudis are an important partner, but I will push back when they engage in activities that aren’t aligned with our values. That’s why Congress voted to block the administration’s recent arms sale to the Kingdom. I appreciate the Ambassador’s willingness to listen to our concerns and look forward to working together.”
“During today’s meeting with Senator Murphy and Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar, I stressed the importance of an end to the disastrous war in Yemen, including the reported use of Sudanese child soldiers, and the urgent need to address their serious human rights concerns,” said Durbin. “The Saudi government and royal family continues to deny any involvement in Mr. Khashoggi’s brutal disappearance and murder, they turn a blind eye to the export of Wahabbi extremism, and they continue to hold political prisoners such as Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and Dr. Walid Fitaihi. All of this makes it increasingly difficult to accept Saudi Arabia as a trusted ally of the United States.”