US national security adviser heads to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Jake Sullivan plans to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was headed to Saudi Arabia on Monday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh before touring other Gulf states, NSC spokesperson Emily Horne said.

Mr Sullivan will be the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit Saudi Arabia since President Joe Biden took office.

He will be joined by Tim Lenderking, the US envoy on Yemen, and Brett McGurk, the National Security Council's Middle East and North Africa Co-ordinator, Ms Horne said.

She added that Mr Sullivan will “meet senior leaders on a range of regional and global challenges” and would also visit the UAE.

Mr Lenderking has made several visits to the kingdom in recent months as Washington seeks some consensus on a political end to the Yemen conflict.

Mr Sullivan is also expected to meet Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman, Prince Mohammed's brother.

Mr Sullivan's visit to the Gulf comes at a time when the situation in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has deteriorated.

Fighting has intensified in the key city of Marib, as Iran-backed Houthi rebels have sought to oust the Saudi-backed government from the oil-rich city in the country’s north.

The new UN special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, recently declared that the country is “stuck in an indefinite state of war” and resuming negotiations to end the conflict won’t be easy.

Yemen’s war began in September 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sanaa and began a march south in a bid to seize the entire country.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia led a coalition at the request of the internationally recognised government to push back the rebels.

The Obama administration initially offered US assistance to Saudi Arabia’s command-and-control operations, but this was later cut back.

Under former president Donald Trump, targeting assistance continued although his administration later stopped US refuelling operations for Saudi jets.

After taking office, Mr Biden said he was ending all American support for “offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales”.

Other support - including arms sales and joint training exercises - has continued, however.

The White House is hopeful that the appointment of Mr Grundberg will bring a new dynamic to mediation efforts.

In addition, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with senior officials of the GCC member countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week.

Updated: September 27th 2021, 6:28 PM