Washington has reaffirmed its “strategic defence partnership” with Riyadh in the face of increased attacks by Yemeni rebels, but the move came in a call from the Pentagon not the White House.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the Houthi attacks in a telephone conversation Thursday with his Saudi counterpart, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the official Saudi Press Agency and a Pentagon statement said.
The conversation came after the White House announced on Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s first telephone call to Saudi leaders would be to King Salman, and not his son, the crown prince, who is the kingdom’s de facto leader.
Austin spoke with Prince Mohammed “to reaffirm the strategic defence partnership between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, the Pentagon statement said.
“The secretary condemned the recent Huthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and expressed his commitment to assisting Saudi Arabia in the defence of its borders.”
The Huthi rebels have stepped up cross-border drone and missile attacks in recent weeks as they resumed an offensive to seize the Saudi-backed government’s last major toehold in northern Yemen.