White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, the de-escalation of regional tensions with Iran, and Saudi Arabia's human rights record in their meeting on Monday, a senior U.S. official told Axios.
Why it matters: This was Sullivan's first trip to the Middle East since taking up his post in January, and he was the most senior visitor to the kingdom so far from the Biden administration, which has kept the crown prince at arm's length over his roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.
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The meeting took place in Neom, a planned city on the Red Sea coast that the crown prince is seeking to develop at an estimated cost of $500 billion.
Between the lines: The White House seemed to seek to keep the visit low-profile. No photos of Sullivan and MBS together have been released, and the White House didn't confirm the trip until Sullivan was already in Saudi Arabia.
Details: Sullivan was accompanied by special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk, and the top U.S. diplomat in Riyadh, Martina Strong.
They met with the crown prince, Deputy Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman, Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, National Guard Minister Abdullah bin Bandar, and Minister of State and national security adviser Musaed al-Aiban.
On Tuesday, Sullivan met in Abu Dhabi with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
He'll meet in Cairo on Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. They'll discuss Libya, tensions with Ethiopia, Egypt's role in keeping the peace between Israel and Hamas, and Sisi's human rights record, the White House said.
Once back in Washington, Sullivan will meet with his Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata.
Axios was first to report Sullivan's trip last week.
What they're saying: A senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Saudi officials had a detailed discussion of the war in Yemen, both endorsed the efforts of new UN envoy Hans Grundberg, and they agreed to intensify diplomatic engagement with all relevant parties to the conflict.
“Sullivan also discussed the values of American foreign policy under President Biden’s leadership and the centrality of human rights in our relationships with long-standing allies and partners," the senior U.S. official said.
Sullivan also welcomed initiatives to lower tensions in the region, like the summit that brought rival regional leaders together in Baghdad last month, the official added.
What’s next: Lenderking will remain in the region to follow up on the discussions in Saudi Arabia, the senior U.S. official said.
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