US, Saudi defense ministers discuss Houthi threats in region: Pentagon

The Pentagon said Thursday that the US and Saudi defense ministers discussed the recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea during a phone call.

Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a post on X that he spoke to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about bilateral relations and developments in the region.

“Secretary Austin emphasized that Houthi aggression toward vessels transiting critical waterways poses risks to the free flow of commerce and the international shipping industry,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

Austin also underscored Iran’s “dangerous role” in advising, arming, and training the Houthis, Ryder added.

US officials have said there is a framework in place for a maritime task force to safeguard shipping lanes in the region and freedom of navigation following the recent Houthi attacks on commercial tankers.

Currently, a US-led task force is set up, but member nations take part in operations voluntarily. Details are being worked out as Washington gauges the interest of regional countries to increase their participation in the task force, which would be further developed, according to officials.

“Secretary Austin conveyed his desire to work with all nations who share an interest in upholding the principle of freedom of navigation and ensuring safe passage for global shipping,” Ryder said in a readout of Thursday’s call.

Prince Khalid traveled to Washington last month to meet with top Biden administration officials to discuss the war in Gaza and the prevailing security situation in Yemen.

The Saudi defense minister said he stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, protection of civilians, allowing humanitarian aid and resuming the peace process. Prince Khalid also noted at the time that his talks touched upon Riyadh’s efforts in Yemen to end the yearslong war there.

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, is in the US and will lead a delegation of top Arab officials on Friday when they meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other Biden administration officials.

The delegation is on a global tour to spearhead diplomatic efforts to reactivate a peace process between Palestine and Israel, something which has been stalled for years.

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