US President Barack Obama is planning to visit Saudi Arabia in March to meet with King Abdullah and smooth relations with the Kingdom over Middle East tensions, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
Arab officials briefed on the trip’s preparations told the newspaper that the upcoming summit between the two leaders was arranged quickly in recent days, and that it was crucial to align American and Saudi policies.
“This is about a deteriorating relationship” and declining trust, a senior Arab official said.
Obama’s Saudi visit will be part of a March trip to Europe, said the report.
The White House declined to comment.
Historically strong allies, Saudi and the US have seen a rift in relations during the last 12 months, with the Kingdom unhappy about Washington’s policies regarding Iran and Syria.
While Saudi Arabia has pushed the US to intervene more aggressively to stop the conflict in Syria, Obama’s administration has held back and decided against military air strikes in August.
One Saudi official told WSJ that King Abdullah would use the summit to better understand why Obama changed tack. “The meeting in many ways will get back to basics,” said a Saudi official briefed on the meetings. “Why did Obama do it the way he did it?”
The Kingdom is also upset over the deal reached between six Western powers and Iran in November, which called for curbs in Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for easing of sanctions.
Saudi officials blamed the US of holding secret talks with Iran and keeping the Kingdom in dark.
“What was surprising was that the talks that were going forward were kept from us,” Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said during a conference in Monaco in December.
“How can you build trust when you keep secrets from what are supposed to be your closest allies?”