Don’t deal with Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary, State Dept nom­i­nee tells Mideast

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

WASH­ING­TON: David Schenker, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee for a top State De­part­ment Mid­dle East post said Thurs­day that he would dis­suade coun­tries like Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar and Egypt from weapons deals with Rus­sia that could trig­ger U.S. sanc­tions.

“I would work with our al­lies to dis­suade them, or en­cour­age them, to avoid mil­i­tary pur­chases that would be po­ten­tially sanc­tion­able,” Schenker, As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for Near East­ern Af­fairs nom­i­nee, said at his Sen­ate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing. “In other words, I would tell Saudi Ara­bia not to do it,” he said.

Se­na­tor Bob Me­nen­dez, top Demo­crat on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, had asked Schenker if he agreed that re­ported pur­chases of Rus­sia’s S-400 sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems by Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar would trig­ger U.S. sanc­tions un­der a sweep­ing sanc­tions law Congress passed over­whelm­ingly last year.

Me­nen­dez also asked Schenker about re­ports Egypt planned to buy 50 fighter jets and 46 he­li­copters from Rus­sia.

“These en­ti­ties who are our al­lies must un­der­stand that un­der U.S. law ... the pur­chases of such sys­tems ul­ti­mately are sanc­tion­able and we will press very hard on the ques­tion of pur­su­ing those sanc­tions should they choose to do so, and I hope you’ll com­mu­ni­cate that in your role,” Me­nen­dez said. “Ab­so­lutely, se­na­tor,” Schenker an­swered.

The sanc­tions law was passed last year to strike back at Moscow for ac­tions in­clud­ing med­dling in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion, its ag­gres­sion in Ukraine and in­volve­ment in the Syr­ian civil war. Among its pro­vi­sions is a bar on sig­nif­i­cant trans­ac­tions with the Rus­sian de­fense in­dus­try.

Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar have re­port­edly been in talks to buy the S-400. But Riyadh re­port­edly threat­ened mil­i­tary ac­tion against Doha if it went ahead with a deal to buy the sys­tems, prompt­ing Qatar to ac­cuse Saudi Ara­bia of “feck­less be­hav­ior” that is tear­ing apart the pro-Western Gulf bloc. –

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