Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince downplayed his country’s months long dispute with Qatar in rare comments about the diplomatic and economic boycott.
“Qatar is a very, very, very small issue,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said late Wednesday in a Reuters interview about the tiny gas-rich Gulf Arab country that has been the target of a major embargo since June.
He said the diplomatic rift between the former allies would not affect investment. The Crown Prince is at the helm of an ambitious economic program to help wean Saudi Arabia off oil.
Bin Salman, 32, is widely viewed as the chief architect of the boycott. Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, accuse Qatar of financing terrorists and destabilizing the region. Qatar firmly denies the allegations.
The Crown Prince also doubled down on Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the Yemen war.
“We’re pursuing (the Yemen war) until we can be sure that nothing will happen there like Hezbollah again,” bin Salman told Reuters, referring to the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia group.
“Because Yemen is more dangerous than Lebanon,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, backed by a coalition of Arab states, launched a military operation in March 2015 against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who toppled the internationally recognized leadership in Yemen.
On Thursday, a United Nations envoy met with senior Yemeni and Saudi officials in Riyadh to discuss ways to end the fighting in Yemen.
“This large-scale suffering must end. I appeal to the parties to make the necessary concessions that can help paving the way for a long-lasting peace, and to the international community to ensure unity of purpose in supporting these much-needed initiatives,” said UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Since fighting began, the UN Human Rights Office has documented more than 13,000 civilian casualties, including more than 5,000 killed.
Two-and-a-half years into the war, Yemen is facing a near famine and one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in decades. The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached more than 850,000, making it the largest cholera epidemic in the world, the World Health Organization reported.
More than 2,000 people have died since the cholera outbreak began to spread at the end of April, the WHO said.