Saudi Arabia's Prince Khalid holds high-level meetings in Washington

Saudi deputy defence minister discussed Iran's destabilising role in region and security challenges at Pentagon and White House

Defence delegations from Saudi Arabia and the US assemble after a meeting of the US-Saudi Strategic Joint Planning Committee in Washington. Photo: SPA
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Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defence Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed Iran's destabilising activities and security co-operation with US officials on a high-level visit to Washington this week.

Prince Khalid, who arrived in the US on Tuesday, is leading meetings of the US-Saudi Strategic Joint Planning Committee and has held bilateral talks with top Cabinet members in President Joe Biden's administration.

On Thursday, those talks resumed at the Pentagon following a meeting between Prince Khalid and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, which focused on Saudi-US military and defence co-operation.

Prince Khalid expressed Saudi Arabia's appreciation for the close co-operation with Washington to “enhance security and peace at the regional and international levels”, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Also on the agenda is a potential visit by Mr Biden to Riyadh this summer.

Sources told The National that those discussions are under way, but no dates for the trip have been finalised.

The potential trip comes as the US pushes for greater Saudi oil output amid strains over the kingdom's ties to Russia, following its invasion of Ukraine.

While at the Pentagon, Prince Khalid also held talks with Colin Kahl, US undersecretary of defence for policy.

In a statement, Mr Kahl reaffirmed the strength of the US-Saudi defence partnership.

He “underscored US commitment to supporting the kingdom in defending itself against external threats”, the Pentagon said.

The US approach to China, security challenges throughout the Middle East — including the war in Yemen — maritime threats and violent extremist organisations were also discussed.

“The delegations spoke extensively about Iran’s destabilising activities in the region,” the Pentagon said. “They agreed to enhance efforts to counter the smuggling of illicit weapons to violent non-state groups in the region.”

Gen Fayyadh bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, the Saudi military's chief of staff, and Stanley Brown, US principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, attended the meeting alongside other senior Saudi and American officials.

On Tuesday, Prince Khalid met US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to “review the enduring and historic Saudi-US partnership and discuss solidifying US-Saudi co-ordination”.

“Mr Sullivan reaffirmed President Biden's commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory and expressed appreciation for Saudi Arabia's leadership in securing a UN-brokered truce in Yemen,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema Bandar Al Saud, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber, military adviser Saudi Maj General Talal bin Abdullah Al Otaibi and Hisham bin Abdulaziz bin Saif, director of Prince Khalid's office, also attended the White House meeting.

The White House co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, was also present.

Prince Khalid is expected to hold meetings with State Department and intelligence officials during the remainder of his visit, which comes as the US is attempting to enforce a UN-brokered truce in Yemen.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a first meeting with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak on Tuesday in Washington.

Mr Biden is also expected to travel to Israel in late June but no timetable has yet been set, Mr Sullivan said on Wednesday.

“We are actively working with the Israelis to fix a date for the visit at some point in the not-too-distant future … unfortunately, I don't have an announcement of a trip or a timetable,” he said.

Updated: May 19, 2022, 5:36 PM