Saudi Arabia should be “more measured and a bit more thoughtful’’ in its handling of conflicts in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday in an unusually blunt criticism of the historic U.S. ally.
Tillerson criticised Riyadh’s handling of conflicts in Yemen and relations with Lebanon and Qatar, and repeated U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for Riyadh to end its blockade of Yemen.
“I think in respect to Saudi Arabia’s engagement with Qatar, how they’re handling the Yemen war that they’re engaged in, the Lebanon situation.
“We would encourage them to be a bit more measured and a bit more thoughtful in those action, to, I think, fully consider the consequences,’’ Tillerson said.
Saudi Arabia has taken an increasingly active stance in the region, trying to face down allies of rival power Iran, since Crown Prince Mohammed Salman became the power behind the throne.
It is leading a military coalition in Yemen against Houthi rebels and has cut relations and trade links with neighbouring Qatar, which supports Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood that Riyadh views with suspicion.
But Tillerson, speaking in Paris after a meeting with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, had warmer words for the King’s programme of domestic reforms.
“The U.S. strongly supports the reforms that are being undertaken in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“We think they’re important for the future of Saudi Arabia, in terms of not just its stability but also its prosperity for the future,’’ he said.