Saudi Arabia has condemned a US bill that would make it possible for families of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom for damages. Riyadh said the recently-passed law was a matter of ‘great concern.’
In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry urged the US Congress to “take the necessary steps to correct this legislation in order to avoid the serious, unintended consequences that may ensue.”
The plea came after the US Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The law gives relatives of those killed in the 2001 attacks the right to seek damages from the Saudi government in US federal courts.
Riyadh had lobbied strongly against JASTA in the lead-up to the vote. The statement from the foreign ministry, cited by state news agency SPA, said the law was a source of “great concern.”
“The erosion of sovereign immunity will have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States,” it added.
Although 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil were Saudi citizens, there is no evidence that connects the government to the perpetrators. Riyadh, a key ally to the US, has vehemently denied allegations that it was involved in the attacks, which left nearly 3,000 people dead.
President Obama had also raised concernsabout JASTA, saying it could open the US up to private lawsuits from people wanting compensation for injuries or deaths caused by US military missions abroad.
Analysts, meanwhile, have warned that uncertainty surrounding the legislation could negatively affect bilateral trade, investment and intelligence cooperation with a major ally.
“It will be very difficult for Saudi Arabia to continue in intelligence cooperation when they take such a hostile position,” Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and analyst, told AFP.
He said Saudi officials were probably debating whether to act now or “wait until the first suit is filed in some small town in America.”
nm/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP)