US elections 2020: Saudi Arabia finally congratulates Biden on his win
Saudi Arabia finally congratulated Joe Biden on Sunday over his election victory, more than 24 hours after he defeated Donald Trump, who had close personal ties with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The former US vice president pledged in his campaign to reassess ties with the kingdom, demanding more accountability over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh's Istanbul consulate and calling for an end to US support for the Yemen war.
As other Arab states raced to applaud the Democrat challenger, the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remained silent on the US vote even as he sent warm words to the president of Tanzania on his re-election and a message to the King of Cambodia on the anniversary of his country’s independence.
At 1932 GMT on Sunday, Saudi Arabia's king Salman and his son, the crown prince, congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on winning the presidential election, state news agency SPA reported.
"King Salman praised the distinguished, historic and close relations between the two friendly countries and their people which everyone looks to strengthen and develop at all levels," SPA added.
Prince Mohammed's relationship with Trump had provided a buffer against international criticism over Riyadh's rights record sparked by Khashoggi's murder, Riyadh's role in Yemen's war and the detention of women activists.
Those areas may now become points of friction between Biden and Saudi Arabia, a major oil exporter and buyer of US arms.
"The only thing worse than COVID-19 would be BIDEN-20," wrote Saudi Twitter user Dr Muna, while many other Saudi users of the social media platform simply ignored the result in the initial hours after US networks called the election for Biden.
A Saudi political source played down the risk of a falling out between the kingdom and the United States, pointing to Riyadh's historic ties with Washington.
But Saudi Arabia's Okaz newspaper offered a sense of the uncertainty about how the future plays out for the kingdom. "The region is waiting... and preparing... for what happens after Biden's victory," it wrote in a front page article.