US Defense Secretary Calls Saudi Crown Prince
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with the Saudi Minister of Defense, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Thursday. The purpose of the call was to “reaffirm the strategic defense partnership between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” according to a readout of the call issued by the Defense Department.
The call came a day after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Joe Biden and the White House would deal with Saudi Arabia through King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and not through the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. “We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
Austin condemned the Houthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and pledges to assist the Saudis in defending their borders and reiterated that the US was withdrawing its support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of the internationally recognized government in Yemen’s civil war, according to the readout. He also “discussed the importance of ending the war, and thanked the Crown Prince for Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a political settlement.”
The two leaders discussed “countering Iran’s destabilizing activities,” and Austin called Saudi Arabia “a pillar of the regional security architecture in the Middle East.”
Biden has said he will hold Riyadh accountable for its various human rights violations and has said he will distance his administration from Saudi leaders.