Saudi Arabia, which seeks to expand its energy portfolio, has been engaged in talks with Washington over a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement that would allow it to pursue civilian nuclear projects.
The United States wants to sign an agreement with Saudi Arabia on cooperation in building its civil nuclear programme, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Wednesday.
“The Saudis are going to engage in a Civil Nuclear Programme for power for their country. Who do you want working with them? Who do you want to be supplying the fuel, the technology? You want the Russians? You want the Chinese that have zero interest in non-proliferation. Or do you want the United States? I would suggest that the United States makes all the sense in the world. If they’re going to do this, we want a very strong one, two, three agreement signed with them”, he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen,
The comments by Perry follow a report by Foreign Policy magazine saying that a handful of American lawmakers had moved to block the US Export-Import Bank, the official export credit agency of the United States, from providing funding for the transfer of US nuclear tech and equipment to Riyadh unless the latter makes a written commitment not to engage in uranium enrichment activities.
The draft bill, cited by the magazine, was put together a month after Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said that the Trump administration had green-lit the transfer of nuclear technical expertise to Riyadh seven times.
In February, Democrats on the US House Oversight Committee kicked off a probe into a plan by the current US administration to transfer sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
The following month, US Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio penned a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro to say that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) should investigate the Trump administration’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia over a civil nuclear agreement that could allegedly violate federal law.
The US Energy Department has been in talks with Riyadh that would allow American companies to build nuclear facilities in the kingdom, with the Trump administration repeatedly emphasising that the deals with the Saudis are limited to the peaceful pursuit of nuclear power.