Joe Biden to discuss Yemen ceasefire during Saudi Arabia visit

White House confirms US president will meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

US President Joe Biden. AP
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President Joe Biden is expected to discuss an extension of the months-long ceasefire in Yemen during talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his trip to the kingdom, the White House said.

The four-month truce has been the "direct result" of Washington's co-operation with leaders in the region, said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council.

"It's the longest peace there in seven years and obviously we want to see that continue," Mr Kirby said on Thursday.

"And we've worked directly with the Saudi government to help get that ceasefire in place and get it extended.

"And we're certainly grateful for the Saudis' leadership in that regard."

A two-month UN-brokered ceasefire was announced in April to try to end the conflict, which pitted Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against the internationally recognised government and a Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore it.

The remarks come before Mr Biden's trip to the Middle East next week where the White House confirmed he would be meeting King Salman and Prince Mohammed in Jeddah.

"The president will sit down in a bilateral meeting with the Saudi king and his leadership team," Mr Kirby said.

"As you know, the crown prince is on that leadership team. So he will be a part of that meeting."

The White House also said the US had been holding discussions with Gulf nations over air defence capabilities in response to the growing threat from Iran to the region.

Talks will include how the US can assist with air defence and then explore "the idea of being able to kind of integrate all those air defences together so that there truly is a more effective coverage to deal with … the growing Iranian threat," Mr Kirby said.

The US has long been concerned by Iran's ballistics programme, and earlier talks about a revival of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers did not provide results.

Before arriving in Jeddah for the GCC summit, which will also include Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, the US president will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leadership in Israel.

"He'll have a chance to meet with Prime Minister [Yair] Lapid and to reaffirm our strong, close and effective relationship and partnership with Israel," said Mr Kirby.

He said Mr Biden would also meet with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.

That meeting comes amid heightened tension after the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Palestinian authorities have made it clear that they believe Israeli soldiers fired the shot that killed the veteran journalist.

The US State Department recently announced that the bullet that killed Ms Abu Akleh was too badly damaged to identify, in an announcement that angered many.

Mr Kirby said the meeting with Mr Abbas was "an important step" for Mr Biden, who he said had helped to restore relations with Palestinian leadership after four years of former president Donald Trump.

Updated: July 08, 2022, 5:16 AM