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

Published 05/26/2024, 07:53 AM
Updated 05/26/2024, 07:55 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

(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.

Washington has already signaled to Saudi Arabia that it was prepared to lift the ban, the newspaper reported, 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 Iran-aligned 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 U.S. arms customer, has chafed under those restrictions, which froze the kind of weapons sales that previous U.S. administrations had provided for decades.

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

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

However, lifting the ban on offensive weapons sales were 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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