White House disputes Saudi, UAE accounts of mediating Griner’s release

The White House on Thursday disputed a joint statement issued by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that said the countries were involved in mediations efforts related to Brittney Griner’s release from detainment in Russia.

Earlier Thursday, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia touted the success of mediation efforts led by UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the release of Brittney Griner in exchange for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

But White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre disputed the notion, telling reporters that “the only countries that negotiated this deal were the United States and Russia.” It marked a sharp disconnect between what the joint Saudi-UAE statement said and the U.S. account of the efforts.

When asked about the Saudi-UAE joint statement, Jean-Pierre stressed that she didn’t have anything further to share but that the “the only countries that negotiated this deal where the United States and Russia, and there was no mediation involved.”

She added that the U.S. was grateful to the UAE for facilitating the exchange on its territory and that the U.S. was grateful to other countries, including Saudi Arabia, that raised the issue of wrongfully detained Americans with the Russian government.

“But when it comes to her release, it was between the U.S. government and Russia,” she added.

A senior administration official in a background call shortly after news of Griner’s release was made public on Thursday provided more details on Griner’s release.

Griner was met on a tarmac in the UAE by the State Department’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, who was accompanying her back to the U.S.

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