US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman - GulfToday

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman


Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had an "open, candid" conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the early hours of Wednesday about a wide range of bilateral issues, a US official said.

The top US diplomat arrived in Saudi Arabia late on Tuesday for a much anticipated visit, his second since becoming America's top diplomat.

Blinken's visit came days after top crude exporter Saudi Arabia pledged to deepen oil output cuts on top of a broader OPEC+ deal to limit supply, as it seeks to boost flagging oil prices despite opposition from the US administration.

Blinken and the Crown Prince, known as MbS, met for an hour and forty minutes, a US official said, covering topics including Israel, the conflict in Yemen, unrest in Sudan as well as human rights.

"There was a good degree of convergence on potential initiatives where we share the same interests, while also recognising where we have differences," the US official said.

A good part of the discussion was expected to be dominated by the possible normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, even though officials had played down the likelihood of any immediate or major progress on the issue.

"They discussed the potential for normalisation of relations with Israel and agreed to continued dialogue on the issue," the US official said, without providing further details.


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Saudi Arabia still relies — like other Gulf Arab nations — on the US to be the security guarantor for the wider Middle East. Riyadh and Washington also have been working in tandem to try and strike a lasting ceasefire in Sudan, which has been elusive during weeks of fighting between that country's military and a rival paramilitary force. And Saudi Arabia wants to end its war in Yemen, something also sought by the US.

"Under the hood, especially when it comes to security and a few other matters like that, the relationship is stronger than it was a year ago,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. "It looks more strained — and in some superficial ways it is — but it is overall stronger.”

Blinken arrived to a Saudi Arabia more eager to engage internationally, particularly after being involved in prisoner swaps in Moscow's war on Ukraine. The kingdom hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month at an Arab League summit, then Russia's sanctioned interior minister immediately after.

With oil prices well below $100 a barrel, the Biden administration doesn’t have an immediate concern over prices at the pump in the summer driving season. Washington likely does hope to leverage its security relationship with Saudi Arabia as it gets warmer with China and Russia.


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