White House praises King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their roles in the ceasefire extension in Yemen's war, ahead of President Biden's expected visit to Riyadh.

"We specifically recognise the leadership of King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in helping consolidate the truce," says White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. (AP)

The White House has taken a rare step of recognising the role played by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in extending a ceasefire in Yemen ahead of what is expected to be a trip to Riyadh by President Joe Biden.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that bin Salman and Saudi King Salman deserved credit for their roles in the truce extension in Yemen's war.

"This truce would not be possible without the cooperative diplomacy from across the region. We specifically recognise the leadership of King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in helping consolidate the truce," she said.

As recently as Wednesday the White House said Biden still felt the crown prince was a "pariah" for what US intelligence says was his role in the killing and dismembering of a political opponent and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Türkiye in 2018. 

Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul tainted the crown prince's image as a reformist. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by him.

Sources familiar with the process say Biden is planning a trip to Saudi Arabia in conjunction with a trip to Europe and Israel in late June.

READ MORE: UN: Yemen’s warring parties agree to renew two-month truce

Visiting kingdom amid high gas prices

The visit would be aimed at bolstering relations with Saudi Arabia at a time when Biden is trying to find ways to lower gasoline prices in the United States.

Biden would participate in a Riyadh summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional union whose members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, sources said.

Jean-Pierre would not confirm the Biden trip is planned but said, "What the president is focused on first and foremost is how his engagements with foreign leaders advance American interests. That's as true with Saudi Arabia as anywhere else."

A senior White House official said Biden was looking for opportunities to meet leaders in the Middle East and he will do so "if he determines that it’s in the interests of the United States ... and that such an engagement can deliver results."

"There’s also no question that — as with many countries where we share interests — we have concerns about its human rights record and past conduct, much of which predated our administration. And we raise those concerns with them, as we do with others," the official said.

The official said, "there are also strategic priorities that are important to address, and our contacts and diplomacy have intensified recently and that will continue."

Further enhancing the prospects for a Biden trip was a decision by OPEC+ to increase its oil production by 200,000 barrels in July and August, a move welcomed by the White House.

READ MORE: First commercial flight in 6 years takes off from Yemen's capital

Source: Reuters