US expected to lift ban on sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia, FT reports

Published May 26, 2024
US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pose for a photo during the “GCC+3” (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting in Jeddah in this file photo from July 2022. — Reuters
US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pose for a photo during the “GCC+3” (Gulf Cooperation Council) meeting in Jeddah in this file photo from July 2022. — Reuters

The United States is expected to lift a ban on the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia, potentially in the coming weeks, The Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The newspaper reported that Washington has already signalled to Saudi Arabia that it was prepared to lift the ban, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Soon after taking office in 2021, Biden adopted a tougher stance over Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, which has inflicted heavy civilian casualties, and over Riyadh’s human rights record, in particular the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist and political opponent Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest US arms customer, has chafed under those restrictions, which froze the kind of weapons sales that previous US administrations had provided for decades.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the US and Saudi Arabia were very close to concluding a set of agreements on nuclear energy, security and defence cooperation, the bilateral component of a wider normalisation deal with Riyadh and Israel.

However, lifting the ban on offensive weapons sales was not directly linked to these talks, FT said.

The White House and Saudi Arabia’s government communication office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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