Saudi foreign minister in Washington to discuss Yemen and Iran

Prince Faisal bin Farhan is meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as the US special envoy for Iran prepares to travel to Saudi Arabia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, before their meeting in Washington. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Washington on Thursday to discuss a range of issues, including Iran and the war in Yemen.

“We have a strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Mr Blinken said before the meeting. “We are committed to the defence of the kingdom.

“We have a lot of work that we’re doing together on a variety of very significant issues, from climate to energy to Yemen to Iran.”

Prince Faisal said: “We’re going to talk about regional security, how we can work together on that, but also … climate change, energy recovery, Covid-19.”

On Wednesday, Mr Blinken met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

The Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognised government in Yemen said it launched air strikes this week that killed Iran-backed Houthi rebels and destroyed explosive-laden boats in the Red Sea.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to broker a ceasefire between the coalition and the rebels.

The Houthis have so far refused to accept the Saudi-proposed ceasefire and have continued the offensive on Yemen’s oil-rich Marib province, the last northern stronghold of the government.

Mr Biden said this year that he was ending US support for the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis.

This included the suspension of a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia negotiated under the Trump administration, which involved precision-guided munitions.

And while Mr Biden has begun to remove US troops and anti-missile batteries that Mr Trump stationed in Saudi Arabia, he has also pledged to continue supporting the Saudi military's defensive operations.

The Biden administration notified Congress last month of a $500 million contract with Saudi Arabia to service and maintain US-made attack helicopters already owned by the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, is due to visit the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the near future.

Mr Malley said he would co-ordinate with US security partners in the region on Iran to prepare for all contingencies, as the indirect talks to revive the nuclear accord remain at a standstill.

He said that included a possible future where the US and Iran could not reach an agreement to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

Mr Blinken reaffirmed on Wednesday that the US still preferred the diplomatic option, but warned: “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn't change course.”

Updated: October 14, 2021, 10:00 PM