US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Engages in Talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Strengthen Bilateral Relations

Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, initiated a diplomatic mission aimed at stabilizing relations between Washington and the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The discussions, which took place at the beginning of the mission, addressed a range of topics such as human rights, Iran, regional security, and oil prices, which have been sources of deepening disagreements in recent years.

Following their meeting on Tuesday, Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed their commitment to advancing stability, security, and prosperity not only in the Middle East but also beyond. The US State Department’s spokesperson, Matthew Miller, confirmed this commitment in a statement, further highlighting their shared goal of working towards achieving peace in Yemen.

US Secretary of State Blinken Highlights Strengthened Bilateral Relations with Riyadh, Acknowledges Progress on Human Rights

During his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the strengthening of bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh, citing progress made on human rights issues. He expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for its assistance in the recent evacuation of US citizens from Sudan and its diplomatic efforts to mitigate conflicts between rival Sudanese factions.

Blinken’s visit follows a previous high-level trip by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan in May, underscoring the significance of the diplomatic engagement between the two nations. However, tensions have arisen due to Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to further reduce oil production, which has implications for the relationship between the US and Riyadh. Disagreements have emerged over Saudi Arabia’s crude oil supply to global markets, its collaboration with Russia in OPEC+, and its diplomatic engagement with Iran mediated by China.

Analysts suggest that Blinken’s objectives during the trip encompass reestablishing influence over oil prices, countering Chinese and Russian influence in the region, and nurturing prospects for future normalization of Saudi Arabian-Israeli relations. Encouraging a closer Saudi-Chinese relationship is viewed as a crucial element of Blinken’s visit to dissuade Riyadh from aligning more closely with China at the expense of its relationship with Washington.

US-Saudi relations faced challenges in 2019 when President Biden, during his presidential campaign, expressed a critical stance towards Riyadh. Moreover, shortly after taking office, Biden released a US intelligence assessment that implicated the Crown Prince in the operation to capture and kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

However, according to Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute, relations between Washington and Riyadh have been improving. Despite surface-level strains, the overall relationship, particularly in security and related matters, has grown stronger over the past year.