Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday in his first bilateral visit to Saudi Arabia as the top U.S. diplomat.
State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said in a readout of the meeting in Jeddah that Blinken and the crown prince "affirmed their shared commitment to advance stability, security, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond, including through a comprehensive political agreement to achieve peace, prosperity, and security in Yemen."
Ending the war in Yemen was one of the first expressed foreign policy goals of the Biden administration. The U.S. seeks to expand the United Nations-brokered cease-fire, which has largely held since April 2022, into a broader political agreement between Saudi Arabia and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
“The Secretary also emphasized that our bilateral relationship is strengthened by progress on human rights,” Miller said in the statement, without providing further details.
President Joe Biden met with Crown Prince Salman on a trip to Saudi Arabia last July, a meeting and visit that were criticized after the U.S. concluded that the Saudi leader approved the gruesome 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist who lived in Virginia and wrote for The Washington Post.
Biden said he raised Khashoggi's murder with the crown prince.
“I said very straightforwardly for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am. I’ll always stand up for our values,” Biden told reporters. “I just made it clear if anything occurs like that again they’ll get that response and much more."
Biden said the crown prince responded by saying that he wasn’t personally responsible for the murder and that action was taken against those who were responsible. Biden said he told the crown prince he disagreed with the claim he wasn’t responsible.
Miller said Tuesday that Blinken also thanked the crown prince for Saudi Arabia’s support in evacuating hundreds of U.S. citizens from Sudan.
The readout didn’t say whether they discussed Saudi Arabia’s potential normalization of ties with Israel. Blinken told an audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday that it would be a part of the talks and that such a rapprochement was in the U.S.’s security interest. “We must play an integral role in advancing it,” he said.
Blinken will travel Wednesday to Riyadh.