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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEOM: The strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the US is important and beneficial to both, a normalization deal with Israel is growing closer and if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon the Kingdom must too, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Wednesday.
“We have a lot of security and military ties that are strengthening the position of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, and strengthening the position of America globally,” he told Bret Baier of US TV network Fox News in an interview recorded at NEOM.
While ties with the US were complicated, he had a good relationship with US President Joe Biden, the crown prince said.
“The agenda between Saudi Arabia and America, today, is really interesting and we have a really amazing relationship with President Biden,” the crown prince said.
“He is sharp, he is really well focused and well prepared, and that is what I see,” he added.
During the interview, the crown prince also said Saudi Arabia had achieved the fastest growth in gross domestic product among the Group of 20 countries for two consecutive years.
Prince Mohammed also said “every day we get closer” toward the Kingdom normalizing relations with Israel.
“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” the crown prince said when asked what it would take to get a normalization agreement.
He continued: “We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, gets Israel as a player in the Middle East.”
When asked by Baier if negotiations between the Kingdom and Israel had been suspended, the crown prince said: “No, that is not true.”
If the Biden administration brokered an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, he said it would be the largest agreement since the end of the Cold War.
On the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, the crown prince said the Kingdom was concerned about any country obtaining a nuclear weapon, because the world could not tolerate “another Hiroshima.”
He said: “That’s a bad move, if you use it, you got to have a big fight with the rest of the world. There is no point in possessing nuclear weapons because they cannot be used.” Nevertheless, if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon, the Kingdom would require to do the same, the crown prince said.
However, the relationship with Tehran was progressing well and he hoped it would continue to do so for the benefit of the security and stability of the region.
One of the pillars of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 reform agenda is to turn the Kingdom into a global tourism destination. The crown prince said investments into the sector had increased its contribution to Saudi GDP from 3 percent to 7 percent.
He rejected a link between OPEC cutting cut oil production and helping Russia wage war in Ukraine. “We just watch supply, demand, if there is shortage of supply our role in OPEC+ is to fill that shortage. If there is oversupply our role of OPEC+ is to measure that for the stability of the market,” he said.
The crown prince was asked about Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks on the US and reports of governmental support for the terrorists, 15 of whom were Saudi citizens. He rejected that claim, and pointed out that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden planned and executed attacks against Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. He was an enemy of both countries, the crown prince said.
On accusations of Saudi Arabia “sportswashing” its image around the world, the crown prince said: “If sportswashing is going to increase GDP by 1 percent, then I will continue to do sportswashing, I aim for another 1.5 percent, call it whatever you want we are going to get that.”
When asked about the merger between the Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed LIV Golf League and the PGA Tour, the prince added: “That’s a game changer for the golf industry, you will have a focus in developing the game and that’s good for the players and the fans who love golf.”
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