News ID: 113974
Publish Date : 15 April 2023 - 22:17
Washington Worried Over Riyadh’s Divergence

Senior U.S. Officials Rush to Meet Saudi Crown Prince

RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s top advisor on the Middle East, Brett McGurk, and energy envoy Amos Hochstein met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia this week, as the kingdom pushes ahead with an independent foreign policy streak that has irritated Washington.
The meeting, first reported by Axios, came two days after U.S. National Security advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to Mohammed bin Salman to discuss Yemen and Iran.
Sullivan said the U.S. “welcomed Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary efforts to pursue a more comprehensive roadmap for ending the war [in Yemen] and offered full U.S. support for those efforts”, the White House said in a statement.
Middle East Eye reached out to the White House for comment.
McGurk and Hochstein also met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema bint Bandar, also attended the meeting, according to Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry.
Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, attended the meeting with Mohammed bin Salman.
The visit by top U.S. officials comes amid signs of frustration in Washington over Saudi Arabia’s independent foreign policy streak, and several days after U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham visited the country and met with the crown prince.
“I just had a very productive, candid meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince and his senior leadership team,” Graham said in a tweet on Tuesday. “The opportunity to enhance the U.S.-Saudi relationship is real.”
The visit marks a reversal of his previous stance on Saudi Arabia from several years ago, when he vowed never to work with Riyadh as long as Mohammed bin Salman was in charge, following the murder of Washington Post and Middle East Eye columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
CIA director Bill Burns was in the kingdom at an undisclosed time earlier this month, according to the Wall Street Journal. He told Mohammed Bin Salman that Washington felt “blindsided” by Riyadh’s efforts to restore ties with Iran and, more recently, Syria.
The alleged comments by the U.S. spy chief contradict the official U.S. position that Riyadh kept Washington up to date on talks to reestablish diplomatic relations with Iran which were brokered by Washington’s arch-rival, China.
Former U.S. officials and analysts previously told Middle East Eye that Yemen will be a major indicator of the deal’s success.
A Saudi-led coalition launched a war in Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of crushing the Ansarullah movement.
Despite launching thousands of air strikes on the impoverished country, the coalition was unable to oust the fighters, who control the capital Sana’a along with most major urban centers. Saudi Arabia has been trying to extricate itself from the conflict.