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Cablegate: Saudi Foreign Ministry Pressing China to Stop

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2382
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L RIYADH 000118

SIPDIS

LONDON PASS TO SECRETARY'S PARTY
NEA FOR ARP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2020
TAGS: PREL MNUC PTER PGOV KGHG SENV ETRD SA IR
SUBJECT: SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTRY PRESSING CHINA TO STOP
IRANIAN PROLIFERATION, CONCERNED ABOUT TSA REGULATIONS

Classified By: Ambassador James B. Smith, reasons 1.4 (b and d).

1. (C) Summary: Saudi Foreign Ministry officials told
visiting NEA A/S Feltman that they are convinced Iran intends
to develop a nuclear weapon, and that the Saudi Foreign
Minister pressed his counterpart hard for greater Chinese
engagement on this threat during the Chinese FM's visit
earlier in January. While no explicit deal was discussed,
Saudi Arabia made it clear it was willing to address Chinese
concerns on energy security and trade in exchange for
effective Chinese support to prevent Iranian proliferation.
Saudi Arabia is also concerned about Iran's unhelpful role in
Yemen. While generally very pleased with the state of
bilateral relations, Saudi officials strenuously - and under
instruction - complained about the continued negative effect
of the recent Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)
regulations that call for extra security screening for Saudi
Arabia. The Saudi Foreign Minister will raise these concerns
with the Secretary in London on January 27. They noted that
the Saudi public is increasingly upset by this, and does not
understand why they were put in the same group with Cuba,
which has prompted some Saudis to question how special their
relationship with the United States really is. A/S Feltman
urged Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the Copenhagen
Accord by January 31. The MFA reported that Saudi Arabia
donated $50 million for Haitian relief efforts on January 25.
End Summary.

Iranian Nuclear Ambitions:
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) Visiting NEA A/S Feltman discussed a wide range of
issues with Deputy Saudi Foreign Minister Dr. Prince Torki
Al-Saud Al-Kabir on January 26. Prince Torki said Saudi
Arabia is convinced that Iran intends to develop nuclear
weapons, and reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Saud
Al-Faisal pressed the Chinese Foreign Minister on this issue
on his January 17 visit. Saud Al-Faisal told the Chinese
that, for Saudi Arabia, this is a critical security issue.
Iran,s getting nuclear weapons will open the door to the
rest of the Middle East pursuing nuclear weapons. Saudi
Arabia would prefer that the Middle East remain a nuclear
free zone. When the Chinese Foreign Minister replied that
China will not accept Iran's development of nuclear weapons,
Saud Al-Faisal told him that China will have to work more
closely with the rest of the world and the UN Security
Council to prevent this from happening.

3. (C) Prince Torki agreed that it was not helpful that the
Chinese sent a low-level delegation to the most recent 5 1
talks. He also agreed it was unfortunate the delegation did
not agree it was time now to increase pressure on Iran.
Al-Kabir also noted that time was not in the UN Security
Council's favor, but in Iran's. Prince Torki said that Saudi
Arabia was convinced the time was ripe to push China on this
issue. It would be important to demonstrate that the
assurances FM Al-Faisal got were not just from the Foreign
Minister, but represented the thinking of the whole
government. He said that Saudi Arabia repeated these points
to the Chinese Middle East special envoy, who visited a week
later. Saudi Arabia has also raised these concerns with
Russia, "which is closer to the U.S. and Saudi positions,"
and with the Deputy French Foreign Minister three weeks ago.
Prince Torki also agreed to work with Lebanon's UN Mission,
now on the Security Council, where it is sure to confront the
issue of Iranian proliferation.

4. (C) Prince Torki said that China never directly raised the
issue of its concerns about securing sufficient oil supplies,
particularly in the event of a cutoff of Iranian supplies.
However, Saudi Arabia fully understands China's concerns, and
in that context, is pleased that the Chinese Foreign Minister
had &successful8 talks with Saudi Aramco and trade
officials about specific commercial and energy issues.
Prince Torki noted that Saudi Arabia has become one of
China's largest energy suppliers, and has invested billions
of dollars in refineries in China. Trade has grown from $140
million a decade ago to $75 billion now, with prospects for
further increases. Prince Torki concluded by noting that
Saudi Arabia knows what concerns China, and is willing to
take actions to address those concerns, but must have Chinese
cooperation in stopping Iran,s development of nuclear
weapons as a quid pro quo. Saudi Arabia is encouraging other

Gulf countries to meet with China to explore similar
cooperation, although it expects these countries will seek
the same exchange.

Yemen:
- - - -

5. (C) Prince Torki explained that Saudi Arabia also believes
that Iran is playing an unhelpful role in Yemen. Dismissing
the need for specific evidence, he said it was hard to
explain how the Houthis, as a poor tribal group, managed to
get so much money so quickly to obtain the heavy armaments
that they have been using absent the help of some outside
group. It is also hard, he argued, to explain the striking
similarities with techniques that have been used by
pro-Iranian groups in Iraq. Saudi Arabia is convinced that
Iran is providing money for poor tribesmen to fight, as well
as payments to their families, and is facilitating contact
with Somalia and Al Qaeda. Prince Torki said the Saudi
Defense Forces have been impressed how well the Houthis have
fought, displaying advanced training. (Note: in a separate
meeting, Ministry of Interior officials echoed many of these
assessments in greater detail, septel. End Note).

6. (C) Prince Torki was unequivocal in stating that Saudi
Arabia has no intention of becoming part of the current
conflict between the central government and the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia felt it had to respond, however, after Houthi
forces crossed its border. He said that it made little sense
for the Houthis to have attacked Saudi Arabia, especially
since the SAG had warned them previously not to. He
concluded that Iran was trying to test Saudi reactions.
Yemen does not need U.S. troops, but does need equipment,
training and information, as well as assistance to meet its
long-term development challenges. He also said that Saudi
Arabia is very concerned about Al Qaeda's continued presence
in Yemen, as it will exploit any opportunity to attack Saudi
Arabia and the United States.

Bilateral Relations:
- - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C). Prince Torki agreed that our bilateral relations are
quite strong in general. He singled out counter-terrorism as
an example of the strength of cooperation, noting that Saudi
Arabia enjoys a unique level of cooperation on security with
the United States. Prince Torki confirmed that Saudi Arabia
had contributed $50 million to the Haiti relief effort on
January 25, which is the largest contribution to date of any
Middle Eastern country. He also welcomed greater U.S.
engagement in multilateral and international organizations.

Climate Change:
- - - - - - - -

8.(SBU) A/S Feltman noted the importance that the President
places on Climate Change, and the Copenhagen Accord. Given
that Minister of Petroleum Al-Naimi was involved in crafting
the final agreement, A/S Feltman noted the United States is
counting on Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the accord
by January 31. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia was very
pleased the United States was more actively engaged in this
issue, and said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports
trying to address this issue. He noted that the MFA will
have to consult with other involved ministries, such as the
Ministry of Petroleum, and promised to respond before January
31.

Concern over TSA Regulations:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9. (SBU) Prince Torki noted he had been instructed to raise
Saudi Arabia's significant concern about the TSA regulations
which had included Saudi Arabia in a limited group of
countries for additional airport screening. Prince Torki
said that this issue had caused a lot of difficulties and
embarrassment for Saudi Arabia, to the degree that Foreign
Minister Saud Al-Faisal will raise this with the Secretary in
London on January 27. Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia
was not upset about the regulation itself, as it recognized
the U.S. right and obligation to protect its citizens. The
issue, rather, was inclusion on the list with the likes of
Cuba, which causes Saudi Arabia's friends and enemies to

question how strong its bilateral relationship with the
United States really is. Prince Torki said it is very hard
to explain to the Saudi public why they are included on this
list, despite not being the origin of the December 25 flight,
while other countries that have had recent terrorist
incidents on planes, like the UK, Egypt and Turkey, are not.
Prince Torki said that Saudi Arabia had been shocked to be
included on the list. He noted that Saudi Arabia had been
told these provisions would only be temporary, and said Saudi
Arabia would like to know how and when they will be amended,
implying that the longer they remained in effect without any
public explanation from the USG, the more it was likely to
prompt the Saudi Government to re-evaluate areas of
cooperation, including counter-terrorism cooperation. A/S
Feltman promised to convey the spirit and strength of the
message, and invited any specific Saudi suggestions to
address the security gap regarding nonmetallic explosives
exploited in the December 25 incident.

Middle East Peace:
- - - - - - - - -

10. (C) In response to a question, A/S Feltman explained that
the United States believes that we need to get the Israelis
and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which
will be the best way to compel Israel to follow through on
its public statements and to overcome Palestinian skepticism.
A/S Feltman noted that the United States had referred to the
1967 lines with swaps as a way of helping encourage the
Palestinians to return to the table. Prince Torki welcomed
this overview.

(U) This cable has been cleared by A/S Feltman.

SMITH

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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