Thursday, March 27, 2014

 

Welcome, Mr. President

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah will hold key talks with US President Barack Obama here on Friday. Strained relations between the two countries and the rising specter of terrorism in the region will top the agenda.







US Secretary of State John Kerry, a group of top US administration officials and Joseph Westphal, the newly appointed US ambassador-designate to Saudi Arabia, will accompany the US president.
Osama Nugali, a spokesman of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed the presidential visit.
A statement released by the White House said: “The countries in the Gulf place particular importance on Saudi Arabia as a political and spiritual leader of the region, and they’re very much appreciative of the fact that the US president will travel to Saudi Arabia.”

Obama is also expected to use his meetings with the king and top Saudi officials to provide reassurances of US support for the Gulf states, and its global leadership role at a time when it, and the West, have appeared to be on the back foot following Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

“It will also be an opportunity for President Obama to hear directly from a valued partner of the US about the situation in the Middle East and to have the opportunity to share perspectives on what would be the most fruitful in terms of his visit down in Saudi Arabia,” said the White House statement.

“This visit is significant because it comes in the wake of tension in relations between the two countries as a result of a series of crises in the region,” according to a report quoting the analysts. “Such tension in Saudi-US relations is taking place for the first time since the Second World War,” it stated.

“Saudi-US relations are very important and Obama’s visit aims to strengthen these ties,” said Ahmed Al-Ibrahim, a researcher on Arab-US relations.

The visit indicates the increasing political weight of Saudi Arabia, more than at any other time because the world needs the wisdom of Saudi decision makers to have a secure Middle East, he said.

Referring to Obama’s talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the UAE a few days ago, the statement said: “It was an opportunity for the two leaders, who have spoken a number of times on the phone of late, to actually have the opportunity to, in person, discuss developments in the region, to reaffirm the strategic significance and importance of bilateral relations and the United States’ vital role in the Gulf region.”

Al-Nahyan in his meeting with Obama in the Netherlands earlier this week made it clear that the US and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council have common strategic interests. Obama had echoed this view.
Obama’s first trip as president to an Arab capital was in 2009 when he visited Riyadh before going to Cairo to deliver his now famous speech on American relations with the Islamic world. Political analysts said here Friday that the talks come at a critical time.

“The US president will hold talks with King Abdullah on the whole range of key bilateral and regional issues,” said Johann Schmonsees, a spokesman of the US Embassy. “It will be an opportunity to reinforce one of our closest relationships in the region.”

Schmonsees said: “The two leaders will discuss our ongoing cooperation to advance a range of common interests related to Gulf and regional security, including Iran, Syria, negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, countering extremism, and other issues of prosperity and security.”

The two sides are expected to discuss in detail Iran›s nuclear program, the ongoing bloodshed in Syria and other issues that have created tension between Washington and Riyadh.
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