US Secretary of State reiterates call for human rights improvement in phone call with Saudi minister

Differently from former US president Trump, the Biden’s administration prioritization of the issue of human rights progress in relations with Saudi Arabia, marks a shift in the US’ approach to the Kingdom.

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On Monday, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan. According to the statement issued by the US State Department following the talk, the two top diplomats discussed a wide range of issues, including the attack on the Mercer Street vessel in the Arabian Sea, which several countries blame on Iran.

The statement indicated that boosting cooperation in security, efforts taken to provide a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen, and urgent steps that should be taken to ease the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the war-wracked country are among topics that the two ministers touched upon.

Progress in human rights in Saudi Arabia was another subject that the US top diplomat raised during the phone talks with the Saudi minister. Referring to the US Secretary Department Spokesperson Ned Price, the statement added, “Secretary Blinken emphasized the need for progress on human rights.”

In July, in the meeting held during the visit of Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister Khalid bin Salman, a brother of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also brought forward the human rights issue.

The Biden administration’s frequent emphasis on human rights advancement in the Kingdom, contrary to former president Donald Trump, who gave less importance to it in relations with Saudi Arabia, marks a policy shift in the new term in Washington. The disclosure of the intelligence report indicating that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi can be considered as an instance of this policy shift.

Another example in this context came when President Biden ended US support for the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s military operations in the ongoing fight in Yemen. However, his distort for calls by lawmakers and human rights groups, demanding sanctions on the Saudi Crown Prince, caused criticism.

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