Senators Markey and Merkley Call for Immediate and Indefinite Suspension of Any Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with Saudi Arabia

Washington (December 11, 2018) – Senators Edward J. Markey and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today called on Energy Secretary Rick Perry to brief Congress on any discussions he has had with Saudi Arabia on a potential civil nuclear cooperation agreement, or 123 agreement, on his recent trip to the region. For months, there have been reports of negotiations between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia on a potential 123 agreement, but members of Congress have yet to be briefed, despite the legal obligation by the Administration to do so. In their letter, the Senators reiterate their belief that any 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia include the highest nonproliferation standards, including forgoing any enrichment or reprocessing activities within the Kingdom’s territory. Additionally, in light of Saudi Arabia’s flagrant disregard for international rule of law, including the murder of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Senators Markey and Merkley call for the immediate and indefinite suspension of any negotiations for a 123 agreement.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Khashoggi’s murder if just the latest and most blatant demonstration by Saudi Arabia that it will do as it pleases with little regard or respect for human rights for the international rule of law,” write the Senators in their letter to Secretary Perry. “It is imperative that you brief us and all other interested members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on any and all of your discussions regarding civil nuclear cooperation during your recent trip to the region, as well as the Trump administration’s rationale for continuing these sensitive discussions at all.”

A copy of the Senators’ letter to Secretary Perry can be found HERE.

Both Senators Markey and Merkley have expressed concerns with Saudi Arabia’s longstanding unwillingness to commit to the gold standard for civil nuclear cooperation agreements, raising concerns that the Kingdom’s commitment to use nuclear energy isn’t solely for peaceful purposes. In March 2018 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman stated in an interview that his country would develop nuclear weapons “without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb. Just a few months later, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir echoed these disturbing comments.