Biden discusses Yemen and human rights with Saudi King Salman

King Salman first GCC leader to receive call from president

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks as he commemorates the 50 millionth coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination with a number of vaccine recipients in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 25, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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US President Joe Biden and Saudi King Salman spoke on Thursday to discuss the Yemen war and human rights.

King Salman is the first Gulf Co-operation Council leader – and the third Middle East leader – to receive a call from Mr Biden.

“Together they discussed regional security, including the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the United States to end the war in Yemen, and the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups,” the White House said.

“The president noted positively the recent release of several Saudi-American activists and Ms Loujain Al Hathloul from custody, and affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law.”

While Mr Biden announced an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition's military operations in Yemen, his administration has repeatedly vowed to defend the country from attacks launched by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday as part of a series of calls with his equivalents across the Gulf region.

“Secretary Blinken and the foreign minister discussed the importance of Saudi progress on human rights, including through legal and judicial reforms, and our joint efforts to bolster Saudi defences,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“The secretary also reiterated his commitment to US-Saudi co-operation on ending the war in Yemen, regional security co-ordination, counter-terrorism and economic development.”

Mr Blinken also had a call with Omani Foreign Minister Sayyed Badr Al Busaidi.

The call came the same day Prince Faisal travelled to Oman to meet Mr Al Busaidi.

The focus of his meeting in Oman was on unity and stability in the region, the Oman News Agency reported.

The State Department said that Mr Blinken also “expressed his appreciation” to Mr Al Busaidi “for Oman’s mediating role in advancing regional peace and stability".

They “discussed security co-operation and reaffirmed the importance of Oman’s trade and investment relationship with the United States".

Mr Blinken also spoke to Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al Mohammed on Thursday.

The State Department said that they “discussed regional security and Gulf unity, and Secretary Blinken welcomed Kuwait’s mediating role in the region".

Mr Blinken expressed “the best wishes of the American people on the 30th anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation from Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation".