U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa discussed Tuesday issues of mutual security concern, the Pentagon said amid heightened tensions in the region concerning Iran.
Al-Khalifa, who serves as Bahrain's deputy supreme commander, and Esper discussed their nations' security partnership as well as "maritime security threats and Iranian malign influence in the region," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
"Secretary Esper also expressed appreciation to Prince Salman for hosting the U.S. Fifth Fleet and U.S. forces in Bahrain, and for their partnership in the International Maritime Security Construct to protection freedom of navigation in critical waterways," Hoffman added.
Tensions in the region have hit a fever pitch after attacks over the weekend claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck key oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, crippling the Kingdom's petroleum production.
U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted the U.S. assessment of the attack points to Iran, but has stopped short of directly blaming the country as U.S. intelligence develops unlike Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said on Twitter "there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," accusing Iran of launching "an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply."
Iran, however, has denied any role.
Esper on Monday said the U.S. military alongside its allies will address the weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities.
Al-Khalifa met later Tuesday with Pompeo, whom the State Department announced will travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, Sept. 17-19.
He is set to arrive in Jeddah on Wednesday where he will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "to discuss the recent attack on the Kingdom’s oil facilities and coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region," the department said it a statement.
Pompeo will then meet with Emirati Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi to discuss regional and bilateral issues, according to the department.
By Michael Hernandez in Washington, D.C.