Tuesday, 3 October, 2023

Blinken to visit key US ally Saudi Arabia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia next week at a time of touchy relations between Washington and its longtime Middle East ally, the State Department announced Friday.

The Sudan and Yemen wars, the continued Islamic State threat, and building Riyadh's relationship with Israel are on the menu for Blinken's June 6-8 trip.

It comes as both the United States and Saudi Arabia are seeking to broker a durable cease fire between Sudan's warring generals in talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Blinken will participate in a ministerial meeting on Wednesday with the Gulf Cooperation Council, and on Thursday he will join a meeting in Riyadh of the 80-strong coalition of countries fighting the Islamic State group.

That meeting will home in on the spread of jihadist extremism outside the Middle East, according to Ian McCary of the Department of State's Counterterrorism Bureau.

The US and the Saudis are also directly involved in efforts to bring a halt to the lengthy conflict in Yemen between the Iranian-backed Huthi rebels and government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, has experienced a period of calm since a truce negotiated by the United Nations in April 2022.

The trip follows a recent visit to Saudi Arabia by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and comes nearly a year after President Joe Biden visited the country, with only mixed success in improving relations.