Biden affirms the United States’ commitment to Saudi defense, calls for diplomacy in Yemen, and praises the liberation of rights activists.
US President Joe Biden spoke for the first time since taking office with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on Thursday as the United States prepares to release a report on the journalist’s murder Saudi Arabian Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Biden underscored the United States’ commitment to keeping Saudi Arabia safe from threats from Iran and discussed renewed diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen, the White House said in a statement. published by the communications office.
Biden and the Saudi monarch referred to “the long-standing partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia” and “the commitment of the United States to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory in the face of attacks by aligned groups. Iran, ”the White House said after reading the appeal.
“The president positively noted the recent release of several Saudi American activists and Ms. Loujain al-Hathloul, and affirmed the importance that the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law,” said the White House.
Al-Hathloul, a prominent activist who had championed the right of women to drive in Saudi Arabia, was released from Saudi prison February 10 after almost three years behind bars.
In Riyadh, “the guardian of the two holy mosques and the American president underlined the depth of relations between the two countries and the importance of strengthening the partnership between them to serve their interests and ensure security and stability in the region and world, ”the Saudi press agency said in a statement.
The new Biden administration has taken a tougher stance on Riyadh than the old Trump administration, pushing for an end to the civil war in Yemen and greater recognition of human rights in the kingdom.
“Our administration is focused on recalibrating the relationship,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday before the call.
“Certainly there are areas where we will voice our concerns and leave open the option of accountability,” Psaki said.
“There are also areas where we will continue to work with Saudi Arabia given the threats it faces in the region,” she said.
Biden officials are set to release a declassified intelligence report by US spy agencies into the October 2018 assassination of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The report, demanded by Congress, is likely to formally acknowledge for the first time that U.S. intelligence services have shown Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi strike team acting under orders from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On February 4, Biden announced he would end US military support for a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, accused of targeting civilians and causing a humanitarian crisis.
He appointed US diplomat Timothy Lenderking as special envoy for the Yemen conflict and signaled that his administration would revoke Trump’s designation of the Iran-aligned Houthis as a terrorist group.
Biden also imposed a temporary freeze on sales of F-35 advanced fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and precision guided munitions to Saudi Arabia pending review.
In Thursday’s appeal with the Saudi King, Biden pledged to “work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible,” the White House said.