New US envoy to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid (File photo)
New US envoy to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid (File photo)

John Abizaid named US' new envoy to Saudi Arabia

ANI | Updated: Apr 11, 2019 03:50 IST

Washington DC [USA], Apr 11 (ANI): The US Senate on Wednesday (local time) voted to confirm John Abizaid as the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a position that was lying vacant since 2017.
Abizaid, who was nominated by US President Donald Trump last year, was voted 92-7 by the Senate, thereby confirming his post, amid a strain in relations between the US and Saudi Arabia in the wake of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death, The Hill reported.
Having a military background, Abizaid served as head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), the force unit present in the Middle East, and led missions in Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was also the deputy commander of CENTCOM from 2003 to 2007.
The vacancy in the envoy post had become a bone of contention in the wake of the gruesome incident.
The Trump administration has been facing immense criticism from lawmakers for its response to Khashoggi's murder.
Khashoggi, who was a journalist with The Washington Post and a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year, where he had gone to obtain paperwork certifying his divorce with his former wife Alaa Nassif in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.
After presenting several contradictory theories, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate premises in what it had described as a "rogue operation".
According to US intelligence agencies, Khashoggi's murder was enacted upon orders given by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
However, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly rejected all the allegations against its Crown Prince, adding that it is committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The US has also barred the entry of at least 16 Saudi nationals into the country over their alleged involvement in the murder of Khashoggi.

Amidst this, Trump, himself had repeatedly expressed his unhappiness over the slow pace of confirmation for his ambassador nominations. In a recent closed-door lunch session with the Republicans, Trump had urged them to speed up the process and fill vacancies in his administration.
The last US envoy to Saudi Arabia, Joseph Westphal, who served under the previous Barack Obama administration had resigned from his post in January 2017, few days before Trump took office.
Since then, Christopher Henzel served as chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy in Riyadh. (ANI)