US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman “to reaffirm the strategic defense partnership” between the two nations, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“Secretary Austin reiterated recent changes in US policy toward the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen, discussed the importance of ending the war, and thanked the Crown Prince for Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a political settlement,” it said in a statement.
The two men also discussed “countering Iran’s destabilizing activities and defeating violent extremist organizations in the region.”
The US defense chief “underscored Saudi Arabia’s role as a pillar of the regional security architecture in the Middle East and the importance of sharing the responsibility of regional security and stability,” the statement added.
The first call between the two leaders came days after US President Joe Biden formally ended American support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. He also put a halt to any sale of related US weapons.
Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthi rebel group has prompted a widespread humanitarian outcry amid repeated atrocities, including the 2016 targeting of a funeral in Sana’a, the rebel-controlled capital, which killed more than 100 people.