Terrorism and Yemen peace feature in Blinken talks with Saudi Foreign Minister

US Secretary of State takes part in GCC foreign ministers meeting in Riyadh

Antony Blinken meets Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan

Antony Blinken meets Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on the second day of his three-day trip to the kingdom.

Mr Blinken was greeted by Waleed Al Khuraiji, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Foreign Minister, at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, state media reported.

He also met Gulf Co-operation Council foreign ministers in Riyadh and attended a working dinner with officials in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS ministerial meeting.

Mr Blinken sought to reassure the GCC that the US remains committed to the region.

"The United States is in this region to stay, and we remain deeply invested in partnering with all of you to build the brightest and strongest possible future for the Middle East," he said.

"And indeed, the GCC is at the core of our vision for a Middle East that is more stable, more secure, more prosperous, more integrated."

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Prince Faisal and Mr Blinken had discussed “a range of bilateral, regional and global issues”.

“Secretary Blinken and the Foreign Minister resolved to continue to work together to counter terrorism, to support efforts to bring about a lasting peace in Yemen and to promote stability, security, de-escalation and integration in the region,” Mr Miller said.

“The two sides pledged to continue their strong co-operation to end the fighting in Sudan.”

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry released a statement on Wednesday evening saying that the meeting discussed aspects of the "strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and ways to enhance co-operation in various fields, in addition to discussing regional and international developments”.

Mr Blinken's tour of Saudi Arabia comes amid thawing ties between Riyadh and Tehran. On Tuesday, Iran reopened its diplomatic mission in Riyadh and resumed consulate services in Jeddah, ending a seven-year diplomatic rift.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran signed a China-brokered peace agreement, which was the result of months of backchannel diplomacy, also including meetings in Iraq and Jordan.

A month earlier, US senior officials and members of the GCC convened a working group meeting on Iran in Riyadh, which affirmed the “shared determination to contribute to regional security and stability under the framework of the GCC-US Strategic Partnership”.

A statement from Washington at the time reiterated the US position against Iran's “destabilising policies” and its support for “terrorism and use of advanced missiles, cyber weapons and unmanned aircraft systems” in the region and around the world.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Blinken held “open and candid” talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah.

Last month, Mr Blinken and his Saudi counterpart discussed the situation in Sudan, where a war between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army has now entered its second month, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and leading to one of the worst humanitarian crisese in the region in recent years.

The US and Saudi Arabia have brokered several ceasefires between the warring sides, many of which did not endure, but nonetheless efforts to ensure humanitarian coriddors can remain open have persisted.

Mr Blinken earlier thanked Saudi Arabia's facilitation of transport for US citizens out of the country in the war's early days. Saudi Arabia evacuated over 8,500 people from more than 100 nationalities using its air force and navy towards the start of the crisis.

Technology and clean energy

Technology and clean energy are among other areas of co-operation between Saudi Arabia and the US, a US government statement said on Tuesday.

Last year, the two nations signed a bilateral partnership framework for advancing clean energy, "in alignment with the partnership for global infrastructure and investment. The Framework created opportunities for new Saudi investments to accelerate the Saudi energy transition and combat the effects of climate change," the statement said.

In July, the US and Saudi Arabia signed 18 agreements covering energy, communications, space and healthcare, during a visit by President Joe Biden.

Tuesday's statement highlighted how “Saudi Arabia signed the Artemis Accords in 2022, committing to the peaceful and responsible use and exploration of space”.

The Accords aim to "land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon and establish, together with international and commercial partners, the sustainable human exploration of the solar system”.

Women in Saudi Arabia

On Wednesday, Mr Blinken also hailed the role that women in Saudi Arabia have been playing.

"One of the reasons I was anxious to get together with this group in particular is because there have been some rather remarkable changes in Saudi Arabia in recent years, in particular with women in the workforce as well as widely defined," he said, speaking ahead of the Women Leaders meeting at Fenaa Alawwal Arts and Cultural Centre.

"On one level if you’re visiting every few years, it’s one thing, you do see the changes; it’s another thing to be experiencing them day-in, day-out."

Updated: June 08, 2023, 4:29 AM