Saudi officials have denied that the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, center, ordered or even knew about the operation to kill Jamal Khashoggi. Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court, via Reuters
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia lashed out on Monday at the United States Senate for holding the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, personally responsible for the murder of a Saudi dissident in Istanbul, warning against interference in what it called the kingdom’s internal affairs.
The unusually strong statement aimed at a branch of the United States government was the kingdom’s first response to a Senate resolution passed last week that blames Prince Mohammed for the death and dismemberment of the dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
It was also the kingdom’s latest effort to manage the damage the killing has done to its decades-old alliance with the United States.
The Oct. 2 murder of Mr. Khashoggi by Saudi agents has prompted the most serious crisis in United States-Saudi relations in more than a decade, pushing a range of American officials to call for limits on American military cooperation or arms sales to the kingdom.
Last week, the Senate voted to end military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
It also unanimously passed a separate resolution assigning blame to Prince Mohammed for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who owned property in Virginia and wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post.
Saudi officials have denied that Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, ordered or even knew about the operation to kill Mr. Khashoggi.
But American intelligence agencies have concluded that it was highly likely that he was involved, a position also adopted by many American lawmakers.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry criticized the resolution on Monday, saying it was based on “unsubstantiated claims and allegations and contained blatant interference in the kingdom’s internal affairs, undermining the kingdom’s regional and international role.”
While criticism has grown in Congress, President Trump has stood by Prince Mohammed, seeing him as an essential partner in his plans for the Middle East. The Saudi statement echoed his view, condemning the killing of Mr. Khashoggi but saying that it should not stand in the way of the broader alliance.
Saudi Arabia and the United States maintain “deep strategic, political, economic, and security ties that were built over several decades to serve the interests of both countries and peoples,” the statement said.
It cited the kingdom’s value as an ally prominent in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its role in energy markets, and its work with the United States to fight terrorism and to limit Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
The kingdom rejects “any interference in its internal affairs” and accusations “that disrespect its leadership,” it said.
The Senate resolution assigning blame to Prince Mohammed was largely symbolic and the bill to end American support to the Saudi war in Yemen would require the approval of the House of Representatives to become law. It remains unclear whether that might happen, but members of the incoming Congress have vowed to pursue legislation aimed at punishing Saudi Arabia.