Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will make his first official visit to the United States on September 4, according to the kingdom’s diplomatic sources.
King Salman will meet with the US President Barack Obama on September 5 while he will also attend a US-Saudi forum in Washington between September 4 to 6. The forum will reportedly focus on sectors such as energy, health, petrochemicals and financial services, several media reports have quoted sources as saying.
However, the White House is yet to confirm King Salman’s visit.
The Arab monarch pulled out of a US-GCC summit in Camp David earlier this year instead sending Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and defense minister Mohammed bin Salman- two influential figures who handle Saudi Arabia’s defense and security affairs.
The upcoming visit comes after the US and six other powers agreed to a nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.
Saudi Arabia has been one of the strongest US allies in the region. The Gulf country is part of a US-led coalition conducting air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant while it aligns itself with the Americans against Syrian autocrat Bashar Al Assad.
In addition, the US has also openly expressed support of the Saudi-led air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, even providing aerial support at times in the GCC’s fight against the Shi’ite rebels.
However US’ recent deal with Iran has caused an imperceptible rift between the long-time allies, analysts have noted.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries have endorsed the deal with Iran publicly but have harboured concerns privately that the lifting of sanctions could embolden Tehran to stir up sectarian unrest in the region.
Saudi, which shares a border with Yemen, is especially concerned that Iran could cause problems through its border line with the embattled country.
The Gulf country’s fears have partially proven true after security forces uncovered a weapons cache in Kuwait, allegedly funded by Iran-backed Hezbollah. Bahrain, another Gulf country that is geographically close to Iran, has also foiled attacks that it claims are funded by Tehran.