WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: U.S. President Barack Obama looks on as King Salman bin Abd alAziz of Saudi Arabia speaks during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House September 4, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The President and the King were expected to discuss various issues including joint security and counter-terrorism efforts (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
The president of the United States, Barack Obama, will arrive in Saudi Arabia today to begin his official visit at a time of tense relations between the two countries.
The president, along with US defence secretary Ashton Carter, will meet with King Salman and other leaders from across the Gulf Cooperation Council to discuss a range of topics including security, economic partnership and development, though the trip will also serve as a bridge-building exercise between the US and Saudi Arabia following a war of words over military engagement in the Middle East.
In March, Obama was quoted in a magazine interview as calling Saudi Arabia “free riders” for the kingdom’s perceived willingness to draw the US into regional conflicts that have little to do with American interests. In response, Prince Turki Al Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – the former ambassador to the US – slammed the president and his comments, calling him petulant and highlighting the numerous efforts Saudi Arabia is making across the region.
The current state visit will aim to strengthen ties between the US, Saudi Arabia, and rest of the GCC, at a time of great geopolitical importance, according to the secretary general of the GCC, Abdullatif Al Zayani.
He said: “The summit is designed as a demonstration of the inviolability of relationship between the Gulf states and Washington against the backdrop of the deal with Iran and the turmoil in the region.”
The meeting will cover issues including terrorism, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, economic partnerships, trade, and development plans.
After visiting Saudi Arabia, Obama will travel to Europe to visit the United Kingdom and Germany.