Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on September 4, the White House said, as Washington and Riyadh seek to shore up relations after a period of tension mainly over a United States-led nuclear deal with Iran.
It will be Salman’s first visit to the United States since ascending the throne in January and following his decision to skip a US summit of Gulf Arab leaders that Obama hosted in May. The trip will come less than two weeks before a possible US congressional vote on last month’s landmark nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran, Riyadh’s regional rival, a deal that troubles the Saudi kingdom. “His visit underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday, adding that the talks would be aimed at strengthening ties. The two leaders will discuss Syria, Yemen and “steps to counter Iran’s destabilising activities in the region,” Earnest said.
“The president will host the king of Saudi Arabia at the White House on Friday, September 4th,” Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“The president and the king will discuss a range of issues and focus on ways to further strengthen the bilateral relationship, including counter-terrorism efforts,” Earnest said, adding that regional matters such as the conflicts in Yemen and Syria were also on the agenda.
“This visit underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Earnest said.
The monarch, who acceded to the throne following the death of his half-brother Abdullah in January, pulled out of a Gulf leaders’ summit with Obama in May that had been intended to reassure countries concerned by Iran’s growing influence in the region.
His absence was interpreted at the time as a sign of Riyadh’s disapproval of the prospect of a historic nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that has since been agreed.
A diplomat in Riyadh said Wednesday that the king would travel to Washington to attend a US-Saudi forum to be held on September 4-6.