Washington, US – US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, who travelled to the Gulf last week but did not visit Saudi Arabia, still hopes to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Austin travelled to the Gulf to thank US allies for their support during the massive airlift set up after the fall of the Afghan government and the Taliban capture of Kabul on August 15.
He visited Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait – but with relations with Saudi Arabia considerably cooler since Joe Biden became US president, a planned stopover in Saudi Arabia did not take place.
The trip ‘didn’t happen for some scheduling issues that we understood were on the Saudi side’, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Nevertheless Austin is ‘absolutely’ willing to meet the crown prince.
“He is the defense minister for Saudi Arabia and we have a strong defence partnership with Saudi Arabia … We fully expect that we’ll get a chance to get this rescheduled. It was postponed, it wasn’t cancelled forever,” Kirby said.
When running for president Joe Biden vowed to make the Saudi leaders ‘pay’ for their role in the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.