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Peace, Taiz in focus as Saudi deputy defense minister meets US special envoy to Yemen

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Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid Bin Salman met with US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking to discuss the latest developments in the Taiz conflict, the Yemen war and the need for UN-backed peace proposals, among other bilateral issues, a tweet from the Saudi minister on Saturday said.

“I affirmed to him the Saudi led Coalition’s backing of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council and its supporting entities, and our aspirations for reaching a comprehensive political resolution to the crisis that will lead Yemen into peace and prosperity,” Prince Khaled said.

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He also “reaffirmed the need for the United Nations and the international community to pressure the Houthis into reopening the roads of Taiz, deposit revenues of the Hodeidah port, and engage with peace proposals,” according to the same tweet.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg had earlier said separate talks would be held to open roads in the disputed Taiz region, but no progress has yet been reported.

A Yemeni minister recently said the Iran-backed Houthi militia is undermining efforts to reach complete peace by violating the agreed-upon ceasefire terms, according to an official Saudi Press Agency report citing the Yemeni state-run news agency.

The claim was made by the Yemeni Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Moammar al-Eryani, who said that the militia continues to “avoid its commitment to lift the seize on Taiz governate.”

A two-month truce between the Arab Coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi militia that runs the north went into effect on April 2, coinciding with the holy month of Ramadan, and has largely held up.

Prince Khalid bin Salman arrived in Washington on Tuesday and has met with senior defense and state department officials.

The Saudi minister met with the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan who reaffirmed President Joe Biden's commitment to “help Saudi Arabia defend its territory.” Sullivan also underscored the longstanding partnership between the two nations.

The senior Saudi official also met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin where they discussed the strategic relations between the two countries, in addition to reviewing the Saudi-US partnership and aspects of strategic cooperation in the existing and future defense and military fields.

Prince Khalid also headed the Saudi side in the meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Committee between the Ministries of Defense in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin H. Kahl headed the US side.

During the meeting, the latest developments and the rapid regional and international changes were discussed, in addition to discussing many issues and files as part of the two countries' vision to defend common interests and maintain international peace and security.

The two officials also spoke about the US approach to China “as its pacing challenge.” They also touched on the war in Yemen, maritime threats, and violent extremist organizations.

Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region were also a topic of discussion. The pair agreed to increase cooperation and work to counter the smuggling of illicit weapons to violent non-state groups in the Middle East.

The Pentagon said Kahl praised the transformation process at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense, “a top priority for Saudi Arabia and for the United States.”

Al Arabiya English’s Jennifer Bell and Joseph Haboush contributed to this report

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