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Saudi Arabia: monthly report April 2024

In April, Saudi officials have been closely monitoring tensions between Israel and Iran. On, April 2nd, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan condemned the attack on an Iranian consulate building in Damascus. A statement from the Riyadh Foreign Ministry read: "The Foreign Ministry expresses Saudi condemnation of the attack on the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The ministry expresses firm rejection of attacks on diplomatic facilities, a violation of international diplomatic law and diplomatic immunity rules." Following the Iranian attack on Israel on April 13th, intense discussions took place between senior Saudi officials and their respective regional and international counterparts. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III had a phone conversation with Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman to discuss the attack. Austin indicated that while Washington does not see escalation as likely, it will continue to defend American and Israeli interests in the area and rely on synergy with Saudi Arabia. On April 16th, it was reported that the Saudi army's anti-aircraft defense had participated in the downing of Iranian drones alongside American, Jordanian, British, and French batteries. However, the next day, the news was denied, citing Saudi sources stating that "there is no official information confirming the kingdom's participation in intercepting Iranian drones or missiles." According to reports in the American press, however, some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had provided intelligence assistance to the United States and Israel in the days leading up to the Tehran attack. Specifically, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi reportedly shared information with Tel Aviv to prevent the attack, as confirmed by American, Saudi, and Egyptian officials. Thanks to this support, Israel and its Western allies were able to intercept 99% of drones and missiles from Iran. While Riyadh and the Gulf monarchies provided support to Washington and Tel Aviv in countering the Iranian attack, they took a more cautious approach than other regional actors—such as Jordan—due to fears of retaliation from Tehran or its allies.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are strengthening. On April 7th, Shehbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, visited Saudi Arabia, where he held talks with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman. On the sidelines of the meeting, MbS stated that the purpose of the meeting was to work together to ease tensions between Pakistan and India, a historical regional adversary of Islamabad. Riyadh had previously attempted to play the role of mediator between the parties. It is also noted that Pakistan and India may resume trade relations, as indicated by recent statements from Islamabad's finance minister; a way to address the difficult economic and financial situation facing the Pakistani economy. In this regard, on Tuesday, April 16th, the Saudi Foreign Minister visited Pakistan, where he met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari. Bin Farhan was accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen from the water, agriculture, energy, and mining sectors. Riyadh confirmed its commitment to invest $5 billion in the Pakistani economy; last year, the Saudi kingdom deposited $2 billion with the central bank of Islamabad to support the country's meager foreign currency reserves.

Download the April 2024 report

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