Saudi defense minister expected to visit White House on Monday, Axios reports

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Washington (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman is expected to visit Washington on Monday for meetings with senior Biden administration officials, Axios reported on Saturday, citing three sources with knowledge of the trip.

The visit had been long-scheduled, the sources told Axios, but it would come as Israel on Saturday unleashed the second phase of the Gaza war as its forces pressed ground operations against Hamas militants, vowing to “destroy the enemy above ground and below ground.”

Khalid bin Salman is expected to meet with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several senators, according to the Axios report.

The White House National Security Council told Reuters it had nothing to confirm when asked about the possible visit.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman on a call on Tuesday discussed efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict widening.

Saudi Arabia has been among Arab countries that have condemned the targeting of civilians and “flagrant violations of international law” in Gaza which has been under heavy Israeli bombardment.

Biden has said Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that the Israeli government says killed about 1,400 people aimed to disrupt a potential normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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