Senior US officials met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week, signalling an improvement in recent strained relations between Washington and Riyadh.
According to the news outlet Axios, Brett McGurk – top advisor on the Middle East to US president Joe Biden – and energy envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, where they first met with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to discuss ways to advance joint coordination and mutual interests.
The two officials were joined by Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, in their meeting with the Crown Prince. They also reportedly met with other senior Saudi counterparts such as Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman.
According to a White House National Security Council spokesperson, they all discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen – an arena in which progress has recently been made, especially since the Saudis and Yemeni Houthi rebels struck a prisoner swap deal and met for talks in Sanaa.
The US officials “emphasized the importance President Biden has long placed on ending” the conflict in Yemen, and “both sides welcomed their close coordination that led to a UN-mediated truce one year ago, and that has since helped forge conditions for a more enduring peace.”
McGurk and Hochstein’s visit to the kingdom and their meetings with MBS and other officials came shortly after US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to bin Salman in a phone call to discuss the recent Saudi developments regarding Yemen and its restoration of ties with Iran.
According to a White House statement, the US government “welcomed Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary efforts to pursue a more comprehensive roadmap for ending the war [in Yemen] and offered full US support for those efforts.”
The phone call, visit, and the meetings are seen as American efforts to improve and reaffirm ties with the kingdom. Those efforts take place amid particularly strained relations over the past year, primarily due to Riyadh’s increasingly independent foreign policy and practices less reliant on US permission.