Obama hosts Saudi princes in White House in king’s absence

President Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Deputy Crown Prince in White House as King Salman skips GCC summit

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

US President Barack Obama met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the White House on Wednesday.

The princes are representing Saudi Arabia in the Gulf leaders summit in the absence of King Salman bin Abdulaziz who is not attending.

The summit is organised by the US to assure the Arab Gulf States’ concerns about a possible nuclear deal between Iran and the US, and discuss the conflict in Yemen.

"The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to president Franklin Roosevelt," Obama said when he met the Saudi princes.

"We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time," he added.

Crown Prince bin Nayef said his country attached great importance to the "strategic and historic relationship" with the United States.

King Salman’s surprise decision to skip the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit was evaluated as a reaction to nuclear negotiations with Iran.

"King Salman, when he met directly with Secretary of State John Kerry in Riyadh last week, did not express any specific concerns about the agenda at Camp David," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday to evert the perception that the Saudi King is snubbing the summit.

Only two countries - Qatar and Kuwait - are represented at the highest level at the summit while the other leader sent lesser ranking officials.

Yemen was another important point in the meeting as Obama said they would work towards "an inclusive, legitimate government" in southern neighbour of Saudi Arabia.

A US brokered five-day ceasefire went into effect in Yemen on Tuesday, temporarily ending Saudi air strikes against Iranian backed Houthi militia, who forced country’s president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi out of the country earlier this year.

Obama also praised the two princes for their effort in fight against ISIS and described Saudi Arabia as a critical partner.

"On a personal level, my work and the US government's work with these two individuals ... on counterterrorism issues has been absolutely critical to maintaining stability in the region but also protecting the American people," Obama said.

Obama is expected to host a White House dinner for the leader of GCC, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

TRTWorld and agencies