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Chinese President Xi visited Riyadh, and high-level Saudi and Iranian officials met on sidelines of regional conference.
Riyadh strengthened ties with Beijing. In his first trip since 2016, Chinese President Xi 7-9 Dec visited capital Riyadh for Saudi-China summit, China-Arab states summit and China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit; during visit, Saudi and Chinese companies signed agreements in sectors including green energy, technology and manufacturing, reflecting Saudi desire to diversify economic engagement with China. Xi 9 Dec vowed to import more oil and gas urging use of Chinese yuan in oil trade. Saudi-China and GCC-China joint statements highlighted political alignment on regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program.
Saudi and Iranian FMs met in Jordan. FM Faisal bin Farhan 20 Dec attended second Baghdad Conference in Jordanian capital Amman aimed at enhancing regional dialogue on challenges facing Iraq, which was attended by regional and international officials including from Iran; Iranian FM Hossein Amir Abdolla-hian 21 Dec tweeted that he had met Saudi FM previous day on sidelines of conference, in positive signal for multilateral regional dialogue efforts. In Yemen, govt continued back-channel efforts to restore truce but with little sign of breakthrough (see Yemen).
Tensions surfaced with Iran as Riyadh anticipated potential attacks, while govt and Huthis held back-channel talks.
Riyadh warned of imminent Iranian attacks. Media reports 1 Nov reported that U.S. officials had said Saudi Arabia shared intelligence suggesting imminent Iranian attack on kingdom and Iraq’s Kurdistan region, prompting Saudi and U.S. militaries to go on high alert; Iran’s foreign ministry next day said claims were “baseless”. Iranian intelligence minister 9 Nov warned Tehran’s “strategic patience” could run out and threatened “glass palaces will crumble” if Iran decides to retaliate. U.S. 11 Nov announced two B-52H bombers flew over region to demonstrate “commitment to regional security”, as Israel said two of its fighter jets accompanied bombers on exercise.
Govt held back-channel talks with Huthis, amid sign of improved intra-Gulf ties. Govt and Huthis held back-channel talks following Yemen truce’s expiry in Oct and amid Huthi attacks and threats of escalation (see Yemen). FIFA World Cup in Qatar 20 Nov commenced; alongside other Gulf leaders, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended opening ceremony, in sign of slow but steady intra-Gulf reconciliation process after Al-Ula agreement officially ended intra-Gulf rift in Jan 2021. Meanwhile, U.S. govt 17 Nov spoke out in support of Crown Prince and PM Mohammed bin Salman’s claim to sovereign immunity in lawsuit over murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Saudi-U.S. relationship faced strains following decision to cut oil production.
Oil cuts fuelled tensions with U.S. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) 5 Oct agreed to 2mn barrel cut in daily oil production, sparking heavy criticism from U.S., which perceives higher oil prices as helping Russia mitigate impact of Western sanctions. Chairman of U.S. Foreign Relations Committee 10 Oct called for freezing all cooperation with Riyadh; U.S. President Biden next day vowed “consequences” for U.S.-Saudi relations, as media reported U.S. cancelled U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Group on Iran meeting scheduled 17 Oct; Riyadh 13 Oct maintained move was based only “on economic considerations”. Meanwhile, Court 3 Oct reportedly sentenced U.S.-Saudi dual citizen Saad Ibrahim Almadi to 16 years in prison for tweets criticising govt.
After Yemen’s truce lapsed, Riyadh continued engagement with Yemen’s govt and met Huthis. As April truce expired without parties committing to extension, Huthis 2 Oct threatened to target oil companies operating in Saudi Arabia; Saudi officials discussed truce renewal with Yemeni officials and potential prisoner swap with Huthis (see Yemen).
Authorities voiced support for efforts to extend Yemen truce; amid global energy crisis, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) cut oil production.Saudi Arabia welcomed efforts to renew Yemen truce. Ahead of UN-brokered truce in Yemen’s expiry on 2 Oct (see Yemen), FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 24 Sept said: “We think it must be extended, however, the signs are not positive” and accused Huthis of not meeting their obligations under truce.Amid global energy crisis, OPEC+ cut oil production. OPEC+ 5 Sept announced cutting oil production by 100,000 barrels per day, prompting around 3% rise in oil prices; moves follows initial announcement in Aug to increase production following U.S. pressure to do so. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 13 Sept met European Council President Charles Michel and 24 Sept met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss deepening energy partnership. FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 4 Sept met Egyptian President al-Sisi in Egyptian capital Cairo, amid wider efforts by Gulf states to bolster Egyptian economy.Riyadh pursued regional and international engagement, notably on security issues. Riyadh 7 Sept hosted Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting on strategic dialogue with Central Asian countries in which ministers outlined plans to enhance security, economic and political ties. In positive sign of ongoing intra-Gulf Cooperation Council reconciliation efforts, army chief of staff of 8 Sept undertook official state visit in Qatar to expand military and defence cooperation.
Govt welcomed truce extension in Yemen. Riyadh 3 Aug welcomed truce extension in Yemen, saying deal “primarily aims to reach a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” (see Yemen). Terrorism suspect wanted in connection with 2015 bombing of Mosque in Abha city 10 Aug detonated explosive belt in Jeddah city as security forces attempted to arrest him, killing himself and injuring four. U.S. State Dept 2 Aug approved potential sale of Patriot missiles in $3bn arms deal. Saudi and U.S. 9 Aug announced joint military drills “Native Fury 22” in Yanbu and al-Kharj governorates for eighth time beginning mid-month. In effort to quash domestic dissent, court 15 Aug sentenced women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison for tweets critical of govt; U.S. 22 Aug raised “significant concerns” over sentencing. Iranian foreign ministry 5 Aug issued public statement demanding release of Iranian national detained by Saudi Arabia during hajj pilgrimage.
U.S. President Biden attended multilateral summit in Jeddah, while govt announced minor confidence-building measures with Israel. U.S. President Biden 15-16 July visited Saudi Arabia to attend bilateral U.S.-Saudi meeting and Gulf Cooperation Council+3 (Iraq, Egypt and Jordan) summit in Jeddah city; Biden 15 July met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In small confidence-building steps, Saudi Arabia 15 July opened airspace to all air carriers, including flights to and from Israel; U.S. same day announced deal to remove multinational peacekeeping mission from disputed Red Sea island Tiran by end of year, indicating Saudi recognition of Israel’s maritime access to Red Sea.
Warring parties extended truce in Yemen and U.S. President Biden announced visit to Jeddah port city in July. Saudi-led coalition and Huthis refrained from cross-border attacks after warring parties in Yemen 2 June renewed April truce for two more months (see Yemen). News 13 June surfaced that Oman facilitated talks in May on border security between govt and Huthis. U.S. White House 14 June confirmed U.S. President Biden will visit Saudi Arabia in July as part of first Middle East trip of his presidency; Biden is expected to meet King Salman and, informally, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In sign of warming ties with Türkiye, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 22 June visited Turkish capital Ankara to meet President Erdoğan, in first visit to country since killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Iranian foreign ministry 27 June said Riyadh wanted to resume talks with Iran; fifth round of talks were held in April. After months of resisting U.S. and European pressure to increase oil production, OPEC+ 2 June announced it would raise output by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August 2022.
Coalition and Huthis refrained from cross-border attacks as April truce largely held. Cross-border Huthi attacks and coalition airstrikes remained halted after April truce (see Yemen). Vice Minister of Defence Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud 17 May met U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during which latter reaffirmed U.S. commitment to help Riyadh defend its territory. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 30 May held phone call with Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to discuss efforts to prolong truce in Yemen. Despite pressure from U.S. and Europe to increase oil production, OPEC+ 5 May decided to maintain planned production levels. Financial Times 22 May quoted Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, signalling support for Russia as member of OPEC+. Meanwhile, following fifth round of talks in April after seven-month hiatus, Iranian FM 17 May dismissed Iranian lawmakers’ statement that he would soon meet Saudi counterpart saying “no new developments” had occurred since April talks, while FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud 24 May said “some progress but not enough” had been made in talks with Iran.
Saudi-led coalition and Huthis in Yemen halted cross-border attacks, while Riyadh and Iran resumed talks in Iraq. Huthis halted cross-border attacks into kingdom and Saudi-led coalition stopped airstrikes following 1 April truce between warring parties in Yemen (see Yemen). Iranian Foreign Ministry 4 April reportedly said Iran was ready to resume talks with Saudi Arabia after Iran suspended them in March; fifth round of talks was held 21 April in Iraqi capital Baghdad, making it first time dialogue took place since Sept 2021. Iraqi PM al-Khadimi in interview 30 April expressed optimism for Saudi-Iran ties, saying: “We are convinced that reconciliation is near”. Saudi Arabia 7 April announced it would send ambassador back to Lebanon after Oct 2021 diplomatic spat (see Lebanon). Turkey 8 April announced it would move trial for 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, effectively ending probe; Turkish President Erdoğan 28 April visited Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Huthis launched cross-border attacks targeting oil infrastructure, while Iran suspended talks with Riyadh following mass execution in kingdom. State media throughout month reported alleged Huthi’s cross-border attacks; notably, drone 10 March struck Saudi Aramco refinery in capital Riyadh; Huthis next day claimed attack and said they also targeted southern Jizan and Abha cities. Huthis 19-20 March launched barrage of drone and missile attacks, including on energy and water desalination facilities in Al-Shaqeeq city, Jizan province, Yanbu city, Al Madinah province, Dhahran al-Janub governorate and Khamis Mushait city in ‘Asir province, and Jeddah city in Mecca province. In response to Huthi-launched drone strikes hitting Kingdom’s Aramco facilities in Riyadh and Jeddah among other oil and gas sites, Saudi Arabia 26 March launched string of retaliatory attacks targeting Sanaa and Hodeida cities (see Yemen). In largest mass execution in decades, kingdom 12 March executed 81 people – half of whom were Shias – on number of charges including murder and terrorism; Iran next day condemned executions as “violation of basic human rights principles and international law”. Iraqi Foreign Ministry 12 March announced fifth round of Iran-Saudi Arabia talks due to be hosted in Iraqi capital Baghdad following week; however, Iran next day suspended talks without specifying reasons. Amid global surge in oil prices, Saudi Arabia mid-March refused to break commitment to OPEC+ deal with countries, including Russia, despite U.S. and UK pressure aimed at persuading Riyadh to increase oil production.
Cross-border Huthi attacks injured dozens, while Tehran and Riyadh reaffirmed intention to hold fifth round of direct negotiations. Saudi air defence 10 Feb intercepted explosive-laden Huthi drone targeting Abha airport in ‘Asir province, injuring at least 12 people. Saudi-led coalition 21 Feb destroyed drone allegedly fired from Yemeni capital Sanaa targeting King Abdallah airport in southern Jizan city; shrapnel injured 16 civilians. In response, Saudi-led coalition throughout month carried out airstrikes in Yemen (see Yemen). Meanwhile, Iranian President Raisi 5 Feb reportedly said Tehran was ready for negotiations with Saudi Arabia if Riyadh was willing to maintain “atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect”; FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud 19 Feb said kingdom was planning fifth round of direct talks with Iran. During phone call to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, U.S. President Biden 9 Feb reaffirmed “commitment to support” kingdom against Huthi attacks.
Tit-for-tat cross-border attacks with Huthis continued, while Riyadh eased tensions with Qatar and Iran. Saudi-led coalition throughout month intercepted Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting southern kingdom including Najran city, Dhahran Al-Janoub governorate, Uhud Al-Masraha governorate, Khamis Mushait city, Taif city; notably, missile 23 Jan injured two foreign residents in Jazan. Coalition intensified air strikes on Huthi targets in Yemen (see Yemen). Saudi Arabia and Qatar 7 Jan halted dispute at World Trade Organization over Saudi Arabia-based television channel’s alleged theft of sports content broadcast by Qatari state-run channel. Three Iranian diplomats 17 Jan arrived in Saudi Arabia to reopen office at Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah port city for first time since 2016; Iranian FM spokesperson same day said Iran was ready to reopen embassy in Saudi Arabia depending on “practical efforts” by latter. Meanwhile, govt critic Princess Basmah bint Saud 6 Jan returned home to Jeddah after being imprisoned in state prison without charges since March 2019.
Tit-for-tat cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi-led coalition ran high. Saudi-led coalition throughout month intercepted increased number of Huthi drones and ballistic missiles; notably, 6 Dec caught ballistic missile over capital Riyadh; in response, coalition pledged to “strike with an iron fist” and 7 Dec bombed military targets in Yemeni capital Sanaa. Huthis 7 Dec claimed they fired 25 drones and several ballistic missiles across border, including at Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah city; 15 Dec announced firing ballistic missiles targeting King Khalid airbase in ‘Asir province and targets in Jizan province; coalition same day confirmed interception of two ballistic missiles targeting Abha city in ‘Asir province, which Saudi Press Agency said caused damage in Ahad Al-Masariyah indus-trial area in Jizan province. Coalition 19, 20, 23 Dec destroyed drones targeting King Abdullah airport in Jizan province, Abha International Airport and Khamis Mushait in ‘Asir province. Alleged Huthi projectile 24 Dec killed two and injured seven in Jizan city while another missile hit Najran city. Saudi-led coalition throughout month carried out near daily airstrikes on targets in Yemen, including on Yemeni capital Sanaa (see Yemen). Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 6 Dec began tour of Gulf states and 8 Dec met Qatari leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani in Qatari capital Doha in first visit since 2017-2021 blockade of Qatar.
Cross-border Huthi drone attacks continued throughout month. Saudi-led coalition announced destruction of alleged Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting Khamis Mushait and Abha airport in ‘Asir province, Jazan in Jizan province and Najran airport in Najran province throughout month. Huthis 20 Nov claimed they fired 14 drones at military targets in Riyadh, Jeddah, Abha, Jizan and Najran cities and Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah; Saudi-led coalition responded by striking targets in Yemen’s Sanaa, Saada and Marib provinces (see Yemen). U.S. Biden administration 4 Nov announced second arms deal since taking office with govt, specifically $650 mn of air-to-air missiles. U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking 16 Nov travelled to capital Riyadh to discuss peace process in Yemen.
Cross-border Huthi attacks injured airport workers in Jazan and ‘Asir provinces. Saudi-led coalition intercepted alleged Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting Jazan, ‘Asir and Najran provinces throughout month. Notably, coalition 6 Oct intercepted drone targeting Abha international airport in ‘Asir, with drone debris leaving four workers slightly injured. Drone 8 Oct targeting King Abdullah airport, Jazan, also left ten injured, including three Bangladeshi and one Sudanese nationals. Amid ongoing de-escalatory talks with Tehran, Financial Times 15 Oct reported FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said kingdom was “serious” about Iran talks, describing them as “cordial”; Saudi officials also reportedly said they are considering Iranian request to open consulate in Jeddah town despite Riyadh’s stance that not enough progress has been made to reopen Saudi consulates in Iran. FM al-Saud 14 Oct met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in U.S. capital Washington; same day met U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks, while minister of interior visited Qatar’s capital Doha and talks continued with Iran. Saudi-led coalition reported interception of Huthi drones and ballistic missiles targeting various provinces, notably on 2, 4, 9, 11, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 Sept. Notably, Saudi-led coalition 1 Sept intercepted three Huthi drones over Yemeni airspace and 20 Sept announced destruction of two explosive-laden Huthi boats in Red Sea. Saudi air defences 4 Sept intercepted Huthi ballistic missile and eight drones over Dammam city targeting Saudi Aramco facilities at Ras Tanura (Eastern province), leaving two minors injured. In sign of continued improvement of relations, Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef 4 Sept arrived in Doha on state visit and 6 Sept met Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to discuss bilateral relations and security cooperation. Meanwhile, Saudi officials 21 Sept reportedly met Iranian FM Amirabdollahian and other Arab and European officials on sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York. King Salman 23 Sept expressed hopes for direct talks with Iran in pre-recorded speech delivered at General Assembly. Media reports citing Iraqi officials 27 Sept indicated that Iranian and Saudi officials had met in Iraq’s capital Baghdad for fourth round of bilateral talks, first since presidential transition in Iran’s capital Tehran. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 27 Sept travelled to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates with U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in effort to push for ceasefire in Yemen.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks and anti-corruption authorities arrested hundreds of officials. Saudi-led coalition reported interception of Huthi drones/missiles targeting Khamis Mushait city on 4, 13, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 30 Aug. Notably, authorities said Huthi drone attack 30 Aug targeted Abha airport, injuring at least eight people; coalition same day announced retaliatory attacks in Yemen’s capital Sanaa. Anti-Corruption Commission 9 Aug announced July-Aug arrest of 207 current and former govt officials accused of bribery, abuse of power, and forgery in anti-graft crackdown spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reportedly terminated contracts of hundreds of Yemeni white-collar workers without official justification, raising prospect of potentially severe impact on remittances. Qatar 11 Aug appointed first ambassador to Saudi Arabia since intra-Gulf dispute erupted in 2017.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks and tensions surfaced between Riyadh and United Arab Emirates (UAE) over oil production dispute. On southern border, Saudi-led coalition announced interceptions of Huthi drones and missiles on 2, 3, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30 and 31 July (see Yemen). Saudi Arabia and UAE clashed in public spat over OPEC+ agreement to cut oil production beyond April 2022, with UAE pushing for higher baseline production level; sides 18 July reached compromise and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed next day visited Saudi counterpart Mohammed bin Salman, ending standoff and cooling tensions. Earlier in month, Riyadh 2 July imposed 3%-15% tax on products produced by Gulf Cooperation Council-based companies whose workforce does not include 10%-25% of nationals from country in which companies are based, in move seen as challenge to UAE’s free trade zones. Riyadh 3 July shuttered flights to and from UAE, citing COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile, Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Khaled bin Salman 6-7 July visited U.S. capital Washington to meet U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken; topics reportedly included U.S.-Saudi partnership, Yemen and Iran.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks. Saudi-led coalition 6, 10, 14, 17, 20 June claimed it intercepted explosive-laden Huthi drones targeting city of Khamis Mushait. Alleged Huthi drone 13 June fell on school in Aseer province, no casualties. Huthis next day said they launched drone at Abha airport. Saudi air defences 19 June intercepted 17 Huthi drones launched toward kingdom. Saudi-led coalition 23 June announced destruction of four Huthi drones targeting Saudi territory. Huthis 25 June claimed to have targeted King Khalid air base in Khamis Mushait with drone. Huthis 27 June announced launch of five ballistic missile and five drones at multiple targets. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec Def Lloyd Austin 2 June reportedly informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of U.S. administration’s decision to withdraw anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia; Saudi officials 21 June said this does not affect kingdom’s capacity to defend itself.
Huthis launched series of cross-border attacks, including on Saudi oil company sites; meanwhile, Saudi-Iran talks on ways to deescalate regional tensions continued. Huthis conducted numerous attacks throughout month. Notably, Saudi-led coalition 9 May said it intercepted explosive-laden drone headed toward Saudi city, Khamis Mushait; next day said it thwarted Huthi boat attack south of Red Sea. Huthis 13 May said they launched from Yemen 12 ballistic missiles and drones at numerous targets, including sites of Saudi oil company Aramco on Saudi territory. Saudi-led coalition 24 May discovered and destroyed marine mine south of Red Sea and same day downed two Huthi drones in northern Yemen. Huthis 31 May claimed they struck air base in Khamis Mushait with drone. Meanwhile, following April talks with Iranian officials in Iraqi capital Baghdad, senior Saudi diplomat 7 May indicated discussions “aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region”, but cautioned that “it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions”; Iranian foreign ministry 31 May said talks with Saudi Arabia are continuing, aimed at reaching “common understanding”.
While Huthis continued cross-border attacks, Saudi and Iranian officials began dialogue to de-escalate inter-state tensions, raising prospect of deepening talks in coming weeks. In positive step forward, senior Saudi and Iranian officials 9 April held direct diplomatic talks in Iraqi capital Baghdad, facilitated by Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi; talks, which showed signs of progress, focused on Huthi cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, frequency of which has increased in recent months. Meanwhile, Huthis 12 April said they launched drones and ballistic missiles at Aramco facilities in Jubail and Jeddah cities; 15 April launched ballistic missiles and armed drones at Aramco oil facility and Patriot missile batteries in Jizan port city, with debris falling from intercepted drones causing fire on Jizan University campus. Saudi coalition 16 April announced that it intercepted ballistic missile launched by Huthis toward Jizan city. Huthis 17 April also claimed responsibility for explosive drone strike on King Khalid air base, Khamis Mushait city. Saudi-led coalition 18 April announced that it intercepted bomb-laden drone before it crossed into Saudi territory; Huthis same day said they successfully launched drone attack inside King Khalid air base. Saudi-led coalition 20 April destroyed explosive drone fired toward Khamis Mushait. Huthis 23 April claimed attack on King Khalid air base. Saudi defence ministry 27 April said it destroyed remotely controlled explosive-laden boat off Red Sea port city Yanbu, home to Aramco oil refinery.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks on Saudi soil from Yemen. Yemen’s Huthi movement launched series of attacks throughout month. Saudi-led coalition 6 March said it intercepted seven drones launched toward southern town of Khamis Mushayt that hosts major Saudi airbase and one toward Jizan city; 7 March said it intercepted ten drones, including one targeting oil storage yard at Ras Tanura city, and launched airstrikes towards Huthi military targets in Yemen’s capital Sanaa – first strikes on city since beginning of year. Huthis 19 March targeted state-controlled Saudi Aramco oil refinery in capital Riyadh, causing fire. Saudi forces 20 March say they intercepted drone targeting Khamis Mushayt and in response struck Huthi military targets in Sanaa next day. Following Saudi ceasefire proposal 22 March, which Huthis dismissed as “nothing new” (see Yemen), Huthis same day targeted Abha International Airport in south west. Saudi-led coalition 25 March said it intercepted attacks targeting universities in Najran and Jizan cities and destroyed six armed drones; same day announced Huthi projectile had struck fuel tank in Jizan. Huthis 26 March said they targeted Saudi Aramco facilities in Ras al-Tanura, Rabigh, Yanbu and Jizan cities as well as King Abdelaziz military base in Damman and military sites in Najran and Air, vowing to “carry out stronger and harsher military attacks in coming period”. Saudi coalition 28 March claimed it destroyed two explosive-laden boats Huthis allegedly planned to use in “imminent” attack and three drones; 30 March destroyed two additional drones.
Huthis launched cross-border attacks while U.S. sanctioned senior officials for 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Yemen’s Huthis launched series of attacks throughout Feb. Notably, armed group 10, 13 Feb targeted Abha International Airport in south west and 11 Feb launched drone attack on southern town of Khamis Mushayt that hosts major Saudi airbase. Saudi-led coalition 14 Feb said it intercepted two Huthi drones targeting Abha airport. Huthis next day claimed they struck Jeddah and Abha airports. Saudi forces said they intercepted two Huthi drones targeting Abha airport 16 Feb, and two Huthi drones targeting Khamis Mushait 18 Feb. Huthis 28 Feb announced they targeted capital Riyadh with missiles and drones, while threatening to continue attacks. Reports late Feb indicated 23 Jan drone attack on Yamama Palace in Riyadh was launched from Iraqi territory. Declassified U.S. intelligence report 26 Feb concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved operation that led to 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey; U.S. State and Treasury Departments same day announced sanctions on alleged Saudi perpetrators – sanctions, however, did not include Mohammed bin Salman.
Country signed reconciliation deal to end three-and-a-half-year intra-Gulf dispute. Saudi Arabia along with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain agreed to reopen their land, air and sea borders with Qatar after all four states and Egypt 5 Jan signed al-Ula Declaration at Gulf Cooperation Council summit in capital Riyadh; agreement ends three-and-a-half-year blockade of Doha by three neighbouring states and Egypt who cut ties with Qatar in July 2017. Huthis 17 Jan reportedly launched projectile into Saudi Arabia that hit village in southern Jazan region, injuring three civilians. Saudi forces 23 Jan reportedly intercepted “hostile air target” over Riyadh that was attributed to Yemen’s Huthi movement but claimed by formerly unknown Iraqi group al-Wa'ada al-Haq Brigades (The Righteous Promise). U.S. 26 Jan announced temporary pause on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE; U.S. Sec State Anthony Blinken same day said administration wanted to ensure proposed sales “advances our strategic objectives”. Italy 29 Jan halted “export of missiles and bombs” to Riyadh and UAE, saying “respect for human rights is an unbreakable commitment.”
Huthis throughout month launched cross-border missile attacks on Saudi Arabia. Huthis 10 Sept claimed they launched missile and drone attack from Yemen on “important target” in Saudi capital Riyadh; Saudi state media 20 Sept reported Huthi attack on village in southern Jizan province wounded five civilians. Uptick in Huthi attacks prompted by apparent attempt to force Riyadh into renewing direct talks with Huthi leaders in hope it would allow group to sidestep Yemen’s Hadi govt in peace process; Huthis mid-Sept claimed their communications channels with Saudis have become more active since early Sept. Saudi authorities 28 Sept said security forces detained ten individuals after uncovering “terrorist cell” allegedly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Saudi efforts to end impasse between Hadi govt and separatists in southern Yemen faltered while hostilities continued with Huthis. In southern Yemen, Riyadh 2 August helped broker agreement between Hadi govt and separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) over reappointment of current PM Maen Abdulmalik Saeed as well as appointments of pro-STC governor and neutral security chief in Aden city, but within days clashes between two sides broke out again in southern governorate of Abyan. STC 25 Aug announced it had withdrawn from Nov 2019 Riyadh agreement, citing “irresponsible behaviour by parties”. Saudi-led coalition 20 Aug said it intercepted drone fired by Huthis from Sanaa, reflecting recent uptick in cross-border attacks. In rare display of unity, Saudi Arabia along with five other members of Gulf Cooperation Council 10 Aug urged UN Security Council to extend arms embargo on Iran.
Cross-border attacks between Saudi Arabia and Huthis intensified while fighting between Saudi-backed Yemeni govt forces and Huthis escalated in northern Yemen. Saudi-led coalition 2 July launched series of airstrikes targeting area around Huthi-held Yemeni capital Sanaa. In retaliation, Huthis 13 July reportedly launched drone and missile attacks targeting oil facility in Saudi city Jizan, Abha airport and military sites in Jizan and Najran cities; no casualties reported. Saudi-led coalition same day said it had intercepted four Huthi missiles and six bomb-laden drones targeting civilians in Saudi Arabia. In north Yemen, Saudi-led coalition 12 July launched airstrike targeting Hajja governorate in north west, killing at least nine civilians, including seven children. Saudi airstrike near al-Hazm, capital of al-Jawf, 15 July killed at least eleven civilians, including several children; UN special envoy next day called for investigation. In Yemen’s south, after Saudi Arabia in June presented new proposal to govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) on stalled implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement, STC 29 July rescinded its April declaration of self-administration and agreed to implement provisions of Riyadh deal, marking progress toward ending months-long power struggle between STC and UN-recognised Yemeni govt; Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi 29 tasked PM Maeen Saeed with forming new govt in accordance with deal. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia 14 July permanently cancelled licence of Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN, citing “monopolistic practices”; move comes after World Trade Organization ruled in June that Saudi Arabia had breached obligations to protect intellectual property of beIN. Saudi Arabia, U.S. and five other Gulf states 15 July imposed sanctions on six targets accused of providing financial support to Islamic State (ISIS) leadership in Iraq and Syria. State media 20 July announced King Salman’s transfer to hospital in capital Riyadh for medical tests. UK’s Foreign Ministry 6 July announced economic sanctions against 20 Saudi nationals suspected of involvement in killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Oct 2018 while UK 7 July announced it would resume exporting arms to Saudi Arabia after one-year moratorium on grounds that Saudi human rights violations in Yemen were “isolated incidents”.
Huthis intensified attacks against Saudi-backed Yemeni govt forces in northern Yemen as well as cross-border strikes into Saudi Arabia. Huthis mid-June intensified cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia: Saudi-led coalition 13, 22, 23 June reportedly intercepted Huthi drones and missiles they claimed were aimed at civilian targets in provinces along border; no casualties reported but one attack allegedly left some people injured. Huthi forces 23 June reportedly launched airstrikes on Saudi Defence Ministry, military base in Riyadh and military positions in Jizan and Najran; no casualties reported (see Yemen). In north Yemen, Huthi forces mid-June stepped up attacks in Marib and al-Bayda, pushing toward Marib city while consolidating control over northern territory despite Saudi airstrikes. In Yemen’s south, after Saudi Arabia 18 June reportedly presented new proposal to Hadi govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) on implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement, tensions escalated when STC forces 19 June captured Hadibo, capital of contested Socotra island in Gulf of Aden. Hadi govt and southern separatists 22 June agreed to ceasefire in Abyan province, de-escalation in Socotra and talks on implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement in Saudi capital Riyadh. Coinciding with three-year anniversary of Gulf crisis, World Trade Organization (WTO) 16 June issued verdict in dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar; WTO said Saudi Arabia had breached obligations to protect intellectual property of Qatari-owned broadcaster by actively supporting Saudi pirate broadcaster. Saudi authorities 25 June reportedly fired warning shots and forced three Iranian vessels from its waters after they did not respond to repeated warnings.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 ceasefire extension in Yemen late April, fighting between Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Huthi forces in northern Yemen continued while struggle between Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government forces in south Yemen threatened to unravel Saudi-brokered Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement. Fighting between government and allies, and Huthis, in north Yemen continued throughout month despite Saudi Arabia’s 24 April announcement of unilateral ceasefire extension; UN envoy Martin Griffiths in address to UN Security Council 14 May reported “significant progress” toward ceasefire agreement. In Yemen’s south, Saudi-backed govt forces and STC 1 May reached de-escalation agreement after STC’s attempt to take control of Socotra island in Gulf of Aden sparked fighting. Meanwhile, struggle between Saudi-backed govt forces and southern separatists for control of south escalated in Abyan; Riyadh 20 May hosted STC negotiation team to discuss implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement (see Yemen). U.S. 7 May announced withdrawal of Patriot antimissile systems and other military equipment from Saudi Arabia, downscaling military build-up initiated in 2019 to counter Iranian threat. NGO Human Rights Watch 9 May reported Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, son of Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah, held in “incommunicado detention” since his arrest late March; authorities reportedly refused to reveal his whereabouts, sparking speculation about forced disappearance. To stem economic impact of COVID-19 outbreak and low oil prices, govt 11 May announced austerity measures, including three-fold increase of value-added tax (VAT) rate to 15% and suspension of living allowance paid to state employees.
Amid COVID-19 outbreak, Riyadh announced and then extended unilateral ceasefire to end hostilities with Huthis in Yemen, and reached agreement to resolve oil price war with Russia. Saudi Arabia 8 April announced unilateral two-week freeze in military operations in Yemen in response to UN appeal to end hostilities amid COVID-19 outbreak; Huthis next day dismissed announcement as ploy, demanded Saudi Arabia end siege on Yemen and lift its blockade of airspace, land borders and ports in Huthi-held areas. In Yemen’s south, Riyadh 1 April expanded deployment of elite forces in Aden amid rising tensions between pro-govt forces and STC; STC 25 April announced self-administration, raising concerns over collapse of Riyadh Agreement. State media 19 April confirmed arrest of at least three senior Saudi officials for involvement in corruption scheme related to COVID-19 outbreak. Saudi Arabia 12 April reached agreement with OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries to reduce global oil production by 9.7mn barrels a day after oil price war with Russia broke out early March.
In further consolidation of power, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered arrest of four family members and hundreds of civil servants, and late month govt retaliated against intensified cross-border strikes by Yemen’s Huthi rebels by stepping up airstrikes in Yemen’s north. Mohammed bin Salman 7 March ordered arrest of four high-ranking family members, including brother of King Salman, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, and former crown prince and interior minister, Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, both accused of treason. In largest mass arrests since 2017, anti-corruption commission 15 March detained hundreds of public servants, including military officers; 298 people reportedly charged with corruption. In Yemen, Saudi-led coalition kept up military operations in bid to prevent Huthi forces taking control of Marib governorate in north. Saudi officials 15 March allegedly barred senior officials of southern separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) from flying from Jordanian capital Amman to Aden in south. Angered, STC leaders warned of further unrest in Aden if Riyadh failed to adjust course. Saudi-led coalition, govt, Huthis and other armed actors 25 March expressed support for UN Sec-Gen Guterres’s call for ceasefire in Yemen to counter potential COVID-19 outbreak. Cross-border war escalated late March as Huthis launched drone and missile attacks on Riyadh and Saudi economic and military installations in Saudi provinces along border with Yemen 27-28 March; rebels claimed attacks were in retaliation for Riyadh’s stepped-up air campaign in Jawf and Marib. Riyadh responded with airstrikes on Huthi positions in northern Yemen, Sanaa and Hodeida. After Russia 6 March rejected agreement among members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut oil production due to COVID-19, Saudi Arabia 7 March cut oil prices by nearly 10% sparking oil price war with Russia. To slow spread of COVID-19, govt 7 March closed land borders with Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, 15 March suspended all international flights for two weeks.
Saudi-led coalition stepped up airstrikes against Huthi forces in Yemen’s north, prompting renewed cross-border attacks, and deployed helicopters attack against Hurayzi tribesmen in east. In Yemen, Huthi rebels claimed responsibility for 14 Feb downing of Saudi military jet in al-Jawf governorate; Saudi-led coalition’s retaliatory airstrikes in al-Jawf 15 Feb killed 31 civilians. After Saudi Arabia joined talks between Yemeni govt and Huthis on confidence building measures in Jordanian capital Amman, Yemeni govt 16 Feb agreed in principle with Huthis to organise exchange of up to 1,400 detainees. Saudi airstrikes early Feb slowed Huthi 0ffensive along main front lines in al-Jawf, Saana and Marib governorates, preventing Huthis from taking al-Hazm, capital of al-Jawf, and making push to Marib city, Yemeni govt’s main urban strongholds. In response, Huthis resumed cross-border missile attacks on southern Saudi Arabia. In eastern Yemen, fighting erupted late Feb between Saudi-backed forces and Hurayzi tribesmen in al-Mahra governorate; Saudi military deployed attack helicopters to disperse Omani-backed Hurayzi tribesmen after they blocked Saudi-backed forces from taking control of Shehn border crossing with Oman.
After several quiet weeks, fighting intensified mid-Jan between Saudi-led coalition and Huthi forces in northern Yemen and across Yemen-Saudi border, raising risk of further escalation in Feb; Saudi mediators persuaded Yemeni govt and southern separatists to agree on new roadmap for implementing Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement; and Saudi Arabia sought to calm U.S.-Iran tensions following U.S.’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Cross-border violence between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Huthis reduced early Jan but, as de-escalation talks stalled, fighting escalated mid-Jan, including Saudi airstrikes on Huthi positions and Huthi attacks on Saudi positions. Following failure of Yemeni govt and separatist Southern Transitional Council to fully implement 5 Nov Riyadh Agreement within 90-day timeframe, Saudi officials 9 Jan oversaw agreement on “Phase 2” implementation plan; plan tasks Saudi military officials with moving rival groups’ heavy weapons in Aden to Saudi-controlled base in city. After U.S.’s 3 Jan strike that killed Soleimani, govt 5 Jan said U.S. had not consulted it beforehand and FM Jubeir 6 Jan called for restraint and de-escalation of regional tensions.
Govt continued efforts to de-escalate its conflict with Huthi rebels in Yemen and implement agreement between Yemeni govt and Yemen’s southern separatists. Saudi-led coalition continued informal talks with Huthi rebels on de-escalation measures. Govt accused Huthi rebels of attack on medical facility in Saudi city of Jizan in south 10 Dec, which caused no casualties; Huthis denied attack, but claimed 27 Dec strike on local military headquarters in Najran (see Yemen). Saudi-led coalition continued to oversee implementation of Riyadh Agreement struck in Nov between Yemeni govt and southern separatists. Ceasefire held in south, but other key aspects of agreement remain unimplemented (see Yemen). At annual Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in capital Riyadh 10 Dec, members committed to enhancing security cooperation while taking steps to establish financial and monetary unity by 2025, but made no breakthrough on resolving dispute between Saudi-led bloc and Qatar. Govt 1 Dec assumed presidency of G20 forum, becoming first Arab state to lead group. Saudi Aramco oil and gas company 11 Dec began trading on Saudi stock exchange following initial public offering (IPO); IPO raised $25.6bn, with total company valuation at $1.7tn.
Govt reduced airstrikes in Huthi-controlled areas in Yemen and mediated signing of agreement between Yemeni govt and southern separatists, also took limited steps toward reducing tensions with Qatar. Huthi forces in Yemen continued to refrain from further strikes into Saudi Arabia as indirect talks continued and UN Envoy Martin Griffiths 22 Nov reported 80% reduction in Saudi airstrikes in Yemen in previous two weeks. Huthi forces 17 Nov seized one Saudi and two South Korean vessels off Yemeni coast; 19 Nov announced release of vessels and crews. In response to Huthi strikes on coalition locations in Mokha 24 Nov, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Ras Isa port in Hodeida province 25 Nov killed unknown number of Huthis. Saudi-led coalition 26 Nov said it was releasing 200 Huthi prisoners and reducing restrictions on Yemeni air space to enable medical evacuations from Huthi-controlled capital Sanaa; International Committee of the Red Cross 28 Nov announced successful repatriation of 128 Huthi detainees from Saudi Arabia to Sanaa. Following Saudi-led mediation between Yemeni govt and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed southern separatists, two sides signed Riyadh Agreement in Saudi capital 5 Nov; after signing ceremony Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said agreement “will open ... broader talks between Yemeni parties to reach a political solution and end the war”. Following UAE’s complete withdrawal from Aden late Oct, several thousand Saudi troops entered city, taking control of main coalition base, Aden port and airport. Govt sent players to Gulf Cup football tournament in Qatar to run 24 Nov-8 Dec, which it had previously planned to boycott. Saudi Aramco oil and gas company 3 Nov said it would go ahead with initial public offering in Dec with company valued at estimated $1.6-$1.7 trillion.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran eased partly thanks to third-party intervention by Iraq and Pakistan, and Saudi airstrikes against Huthis in Yemen reduced in intensity and scope. With Riyadh’s blessing, Iraq reportedly engaged Iran to reduce Saudi-Iran tensions. Pakistani PM Khan visited Iran and Saudi Arabia, 13 and 15 Oct respectively, in bid to ease tensions. FM Jubeir 21 Oct denied mediation efforts. Following 14 Sept suspected Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities, U.S. 11 Oct announced deployment of 3,000 military personnel and two Patriot missile batteries to Saudi Arabia. Govt 13 Oct denied involvement in 11 Oct attack on Iranian tanker in Red Sea off Saudi coast. Iranian official 31 Oct announced Saudi Arabia had released nineteen Iranian fishermen, eleven detained since Dec 2018, eight since Jan. Following Huthis’ 20 Sept unilateral cessation of cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, Saudi airstrikes on Huthi-controlled territory reduced in frequency and geographic scope. Govt continued to mediate talks between Yemeni govt and United Arab Emirates-backed southern separatists in Jeddah and Riyadh; both sides closed in on agreement to form new, more inclusive govt and end hostilities in south (see Yemen). Russian President Putin 14 Oct visited Saudi Arabia for first time in twelve years; he discussed regional security with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while trade delegates signed economic agreements worth $2bn.
Saudi Arabia and U.S. held Iran responsible for 14 Sept aerial attacks on oil facilities in east, which initially nearly halved oil production, causing sharp rise in tensions and raising risk of confrontation between Saudi Arabia and/or U.S. and Iran or its allies in coming weeks. Cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia could intensify in Oct if Huthis’ offer of unilateral suspension of attacks fails to produce mutual de-escalation agreement. Govt said drones and missile debris indicate Iranian-made technology and held Iran responsible, but did not echo U.S. claim that attacks were launched from Iran. Tehran denied responsibility. Govt 16 Sept invited UN experts to view oil facilities and said it would “take the appropriate measures” based on findings; experts began investigation in country 20 Sept. Govt 18 Sept joined U.S.-led initiative to secure Gulf waters called International Maritime Security Construct. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman 18 Sept met U.S. Sec State Pompeo in Saudi city of Jeddah to discuss response to crisis; Pompeo described attacks as “act of war”. U.S. 20 Sept said it would deploy additional troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in response to countries’ requests for assistance with air and missile defence systems. In Jeddah in south, Saudi-backed Yemeni govt and Yemen’s UAE-aligned southern separatist group Southern Transitional Council (STC) 4 Sept onward held indirect talks aimed at power-sharing agreement to end fighting, no outcome end-month. Yemen’s Huthis 18 Sept said they would cease attacks into Saudi Arabia; Saudi govt 27 Sept agreed to partial ceasefire in four Yemeni provinces including Huthi-controlled capital Sanaa. Huthis 29 Sept claimed that their 25 Aug cross-border offensive in Najran province, Saudi Arabia killed hundreds of Saudi soldiers and captured “thousands”; Saudi Arabia and Yemeni govt denied claim.
Govt sought to end hostilities between its allies in Yemen after United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed southern separatists took Aden from Hadi govt, both nominally part of Saudi-led coalition opposed to Yemen’s Huthis; fighting raised tensions between UAE and Saudi Arabia, which remains opposed to Yemen’s partition. In Yemen, UAE-backed southern secessionists Southern Transitional Council (STC) 7-10 Aug seized control of provisional capital Aden and expelled pro-govt forces, including armed groups closely associated with Islamist Islah party (see Yemen). High-level delegations from Saudi Arabia and UAE, including Saudi King Salman and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed, met in Saudi city of Mecca 12 Aug and jointly called for parties to “prioritise dialogue and reason in interest of Yemen”. Saudi Arabia same day called for emergency summit on Yemen’s southern conflict in Jeddah. Saudi and UAE FMs 26 Aug issued joint statement reaffirming coalition’s support to Hadi govt while condemning “defamation” of UAE. Huthis continued to launch attacks into Saudi territory: drones 9 Aug targeted Abha airport, inflicting no major damage; 17 Aug hit and started fire at Shaybah oil field near UAE border, prompting coalition to carry out apparently retaliatory airstrikes around Sanaa same day and around Saada 20 Aug. FM Jubeir and Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed Qattan 17 Aug attended signing of Sudan’s transitional govt agreement in Sudanese capital Khartoum; Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next day called Ethiopian PM Abiy and AU Chairperson Moussa Faki to congratulate them for successful mediation. Authorities 16 Aug said they had identified 3.67mn people in Saudi Arabia lacking proper documentation, mostly Ethiopians and Yemenis, and would soon deport nearly 1 million.
Govt maintained hard line against Yemen’s Huthi rebels, whom it considers Iranian proxies, and encouraged Sudanese military and opposition to engage in talks aimed at political transition. Yemen’s Huthi movement continued attacks into southern Saudi Arabia, but govt reported no casualties or major damage. Saudi-led coalition fighting Huthis in Yemen 8 July accused Huthis of “strong” ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Same day, govt said Huthi-operated “booby-trapped boat” sought to damage commercial ship in Red Sea, but no other sources confirmed reporting. Following visit to capital Riyadh by U.S. Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth late June, govt and United Arab Emirates (UAE) early July encouraged leaders of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council and protest movement to engage in talks mediated by African Union and Ethiopia; Saudi and Emirati leaders expressed optimism about 17 July agreement between parties (see Sudan). U.S. Congress 17 July passed three resolutions aimed at blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE without congressional approval. U.S. President Trump 25 July vetoed all three resolutions saying they would “weaken America’s global competitiveness”; senators voting to override presidential veto 30 July numbered less than necessary two-thirds majority.
As tensions continued to rise between U.S. and Gulf states on one hand and Iran and its regional allies on other, Huthi forces in Yemen increased pace of cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, including on infrastructure; Saudi followed with higher-intensity bombings in Yemen, especially in capital Sanaa, raising risk of further escalation in July. Huthis launched missile and drone strikes on Abha and Najran airports in Saudi Arabia, attacking Abha airport 12, 14, 15 and 23 June. Govt officials described Huthis as Iran-backed terrorists and U.S. framed Huthi cross-border attacks as part of Iranian regional campaign against Saudi and U.S. interests (see Iran). Quad comprising Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), UK and U.S. 22 June expressed concern over “escalating tensions in the region and the dangers posed by Iranian destabilising activity to peace and security both in Yemen and the broader region”. After Sudanese security forces 3 June attacked protesters in Sudanese capital Khartoum, U.S. official next day called Saudi and UAE govts which support Sudan’s military leadership; both released statements regretting violence and urging military to reopen talks with protesters.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalated with govt blaming Iran for Huthi-claimed attacks on its territory. Unidentified attackers 12 May damaged four oil tankers (two Saudi, one Emirati, one Norwegian) near Fujairah port in United Arab Emirates (UAE). UAE refrained from attributing blame and opened joint investigation with U.S., France and Norway. U.S. defence officials 24 May said Iran was responsible for attacks. Huthis in Yemen claimed responsibility for drone attack 14 May on state oil company Aramco pipeline in centre of country as response to Saudi-led coalition “aggression” in Yemen; attacks caused company to temporarily close pipeline. Saudi officials 17 May blamed Huthis and accused Iran of guiding Huthi actions. Saudi-led coalition 16 May launched airstrikes in Sanaa in apparent retaliation, with humanitarian agencies reporting at least six civilians killed. FM al-Jubeir 19 May said govt did not want war but would not allow Iran to “continue its hostile policies”. U.S.’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet 18 May said it had begun “enhanced security patrols” around Arabian Peninsula. State media 20 May reported security forces intercepted two “Huthi ballistic missiles” over Taif targeting Jeddah and Mecca; Huthis denied cities were targets. Huthis 21 May claimed they had launched drone attack on arms depot at Najran airport, but coalition spokesman said Huthis targeted civilian site. King Salman late May convened emergency meetings of Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League in Mecca to address what he called Iranian “escalations” and other regional issues. Govt 22 May said it would take part in U.S.-led Palestine investment meeting to be held 25-26 June in Manama, Bahrain, as part of upcoming U.S.-developed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Govt 19 May said it had deposited $250mn into Sudan’s central bank, following UAE deposit of same amount in April.