Saudi crown prince, US Defence Secretary discuss Yemen conflict

Lloyd Austin and Prince Mohammed discussed regional security, particularly efforts to end the war in Yemen and “ongoing bilateral efforts to improve Saudi Arabia’s defences,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Wednesday 02/06/2021
A file picture shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh. (AFP)
A file picture shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh. (AFP)

WASHINGTON – US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz on Wednesday and emphasised Washington’s commitment to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people, the Pentagon said.

Austin and Prince Mohammed discussed regional security, particularly efforts to end the war in Yemen and “ongoing bilateral efforts to improve Saudi Arabia’s defences,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“Saudi Arabia is an important pillar in the regional security architecture and the US remains committed to its self-defense, the statement added.

Iran-aligned Houthi militias, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014, have kept up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and are pressing an offensive to seize Yemen’s gas-rich Marib region.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted a Saudi-backed government from the capital Sana’a. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

Austin noted “Saudi Arabia’s recent successes in defeating Houthi attacks on the kingdom” and thanked the crown prince for working with US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to end the Yemen war, Kirby said.

Last month, Lenderking criticised the Houthis for not engaging seriously in stalled efforts to secure a ceasefire.

“The Houthis passed up a major opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to peace,” he said. That contrasted with the Yemen government’s willingness to reach a peace deal, he added.

Lenderking made the statement at the end of a trip to the region where he visited Oman and Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s immediate neighbours.

Lenderking called out the Houthis’ contradictions, arguing that they claimed concern over the humanitarian situation while continuing to attack the northern government stronghold of Marib.

Lenderking’s statements were the latest in a series of rebukes from Washington against the Houthis, who have intensified their attacks in recent months despite the administration of President Joe Biden removing them from the US list of “foreign terrorist organisations” in February.

That move reversed the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis in January and was aimed at improving humanitarian relief distribution to Yemeni civilians.