The Biden administration has thanked Saudi Arabia for its recent pledge of $400 million in assistance for Ukraine, which has been battling a Russian invasion since last year.
Saudi Arabia and Ukraine signed an agreement on Sunday that will see Kyiv get $100 million in humanitarian aid and the financing of $300 million worth of oil derivatives as a grant from Riyadh.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan led a delegation to Kyiv over the weekend, where he was received by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“We welcome the visit made yesterday by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister and senior Saudi humanitarian and energy officials to Kyiv for meetings with President Zelenskyy… and the rest of his leadership team,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
He added that Prince Faisal’s trip was important and that the aid pledged was “not insignificant. So, it’s a positive step.”
Saudi analyst Ali Shihabi said that Prince Faisal’s trip to Kyiv was a sign that Riyadh could maintain ties with both Ukraine and Russia.
“A high-profile signal to the world that the Kingdom is able to maintain ties to both sides of this conflict and do what it can to help Ukraine while maintaining a working relationship with Russia,” he tweeted.
A high profile signal to the world that the Kingdom is able to maintain ties to both sides of this conflict and do what it can to help Ukraine while maintaining a working relationship with Russia https://t.co/1i97pWoctQ
Saudi Arabia was one of several Arab nations to vote to condemn Russia’s invasion at the UN last week.
Kirby cited the vote by Saudi Arabia at the UN General Assembly. “The Saudi initiative is a positive step for the Middle East region, and we hope to see more from our partners over there in the coming months,” he told reporters during a briefing.
US ties with its traditional Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have been turbulent since President Joe Biden took office.
Some of his first foreign policy moves included freezing arms sales to the two Gulf powerhouses, removing the Iran-backed Houthis from the terror blacklist, and ending US support for “offensive” operations of the Arab Coalition in Yemen.
But the Biden administration has grown frustrated with a lack of cooperation from Yemen’s Houthis as it tries to secure a peaceful solution to the yearslong war. Iran has also dented the Biden administration’s hopes of reviving the now-defunct 2015 nuclear deal. And with Iran’s continued backing for attacks on US interests in the region as well as its allies, Washington is no longer prioritizing a nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Last month, senior US officials from the Biden administration took part in security meetings in Riyadh to discuss Iran and other common threats. Officials said these meetings were a sign that claims that Washington was looking to distance itself from the Middle East were inaccurate.