First call between Saudi foreign minister and US secretary of state

Tony Blinken and Prince Faisal bin Farhan discussed regional security

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken had his first phone call with Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan that addressed issues “of mutual concern”.

The Saudi press agency announced the call on Friday, which comes a week after Mr Blinken was confirmed as secretary of state.

Prince Faisal congratulated Mr Blinken on his appointment and reiterated Riyadh’s desire to work with Washington “on facing mutual challenges and maintaining security and stability in the region.”

The two also discussed issues of “mutual concern” but the Saudi readout did not specify what those issues were.

On Saturday, the Department of State said the call included discussion of "regional security, counterterrorism, and co-operation to deter and defend against attacks on the Kingdom".

"The secretary outlined several key priorities of the new administration including elevating human rights issues and ending the war in Yemen," said the department's spokesperson Ned Price.

Prince Faisal said in an interview on Saturday that Saudi Arabia was optimistic it would have "excellent relations" with the new US administration of President Joe Biden and that it would continue to negotiate with Washington regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

"I am optimistic. Saudi Arabia has built solid, historical relations where it worked with different administrations. We will continue to do that as well with President Biden," he said in an interview with Arabiya TV.

Mr Blinken's conversation with Prince Faisal was his second call to the Gulf region after speaking with UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed earlier in the week.

It also follows Mr Biden’s speech on Thursday and his announcement that the US would halt support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

“This war has to end,” Mr Biden said in his address to State Department employees. “We’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.

“At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries.

"We’re going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.”

Saudi Arabia welcomed the speech as well as the appointment of Tim Lenderking as new US envoy to Yemen.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomes the United States’ commitment, expressed in President Biden’s speech, to co-operate with the kingdom in defending its security and territory," Prince Faisal said in a statement on Thursday.

“We look forward to working with Tim Lenderking to achieve our joint goal of a comprehensive political resolution in Yemen as part of our shared vision for a peaceful and prosperous region.”

The Biden administration is also reviewing arms sales to Saudi Arabia that were greenlighted by the former Trump administration.