White House Praises Saudi Royals on Yemen Truce

Just this week the White House said Biden still felt Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was a 'pariah' for his role in Jamal Khashoggi's killing, as Biden puts rumors of a Mideast tour – with a stop in Saudi Arabia – to rest

Reuters
Reuters
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last year.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last year.Credit: Bandar Aljaloud/AP
Reuters
Reuters

The White House took the rare step of recognizing the role played by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in extending a ceasefire in Yemen on Thursday.

LISTEN: Biden wanted to isolate the Saudis. Now he has to kiss the ring

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the crown prince and Saudi King Salman deserved credit for their roles in the truce extension in Yemen's war.

"This truce would not be possible without the cooperative diplomacy from across the region. We specifically recognize the leadership of King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in helping consolidate the truce," she said.

At the same time, President Joe Biden put rumors to rest that he would be making his first visit while in office to the region. "I have no direct plans at the moment but let me tell you that I have been engaged in trying to work with, how we can bring more stability and peace in the Middle East," he said.

"There is a possibility that I would be going to meet with both the Israelis and some Arab countries at the time, including I expect Saudi Arabia if I did go, but I have no direct plans at the moment. I'm not going to change my view on human rights, but as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can."

Sources familiar with the process had said that Biden is planning a trip to Saudi Arabia in conjunction with a trip to Europe and Israel in late June.

"We're getting way ahead of ourselves here. What I want to do is see to it that we diminish the likelihood that there's a continuation of some of the senseless wars between Israel and the Arab nations, and that's what I'm focused on."

As recently as Wednesday the White House said Biden still felt Prince Mohammed was a "pariah" for what U.S. intelligence says was his role in the killing and dismembering of a political opponent, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018. Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul tainted the crown prince's image as a reformist. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by him.

A senior White House official said Biden was looking for opportunities to meet leaders in the Middle East and he will do so "if he determines that it’s in the interests of the United States… and that such an engagement can deliver results."

"There’s also no question that – as with many countries where we share interests – we have concerns about its human rights record and past conduct, much of which predated our administration. And we raise those concerns with them, as we do with others," the official said.

The official said "there are also strategic priorities that are important to address, and our contacts and diplomacy have intensified recently and that will continue."

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