Saudi Defense Minister to Visit Washington Monday
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By Jim Thomas | Saturday, 28 October 2023 06:05 PM EDT
Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, is set to visit Washington on Monday, as confirmed by three sources familiar with the matter, according to Axios.
The sources said the visit was scheduled well in advance and highlighted the meticulous planning for it. However, the visit gains heightened significance due to its timing, coinciding with Israel’s recent expansion of its ground operation in Gaza. The offensive drew strong condemnation from Riyadh over the weekend.
Both the United States and Saudi Arabia are concerned that the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas could escalate into a wider regional conflict.
Prince Khalid, the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and former Saudi ambassador to the United States, is the highest-ranking Saudi official to visit Washington since the Biden administration took office.
During his stay in Washington, Prince Khalid is expected to engage in discussions with key figures, including White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and various senators, according to the abovementioned sources.
The White House has refrained from offering any official comments on the impending visit. Meanwhile, inquiries directed to the Saudi Embassy in Washington have not yielded an immediate response.
In related diplomatic developments, President Joe Biden held a conversation with Crown Prince Mohammed on Tuesday, during which they discussed U.S. diplomatic and military initiatives to discourage state and nonstate actors in Middle East from becoming embroiled in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The White House relayed that Biden underlined the United States’ “full support for the defense of U.S. partners facing terrorist threats, whether from state or nonstate actors.”
On Saturday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a critical statement about Israel, condemning and denouncing the Israeli ground operation in Gaza. The ministry asserted that any such Israeli ground operation posed a significant risk to the lives of Palestinian civilians and could result in severe humanitarian hazards.
Before the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, Biden had endeavored to alleviate tensions in the Middle East by advocating for an extensive agreement with Saudi Arabia. The proposed deal was anticipated to encompass a historic peace accord between Saudi Arabia and Israel, with a complementary component addressing the Palestinian question.