US President Barack Obama will meet with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on Wednesday, a few hours before Camp David summit with all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders is set to begin, Reuters reported.
Obama’s plan was to hold a meeting with Saudi King Salman, but the King sent his deputies to the summit stating that he was unable to attend the summit due to the pressing urgency of the Saudi-led coalition's brokering of a humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen stating that despite assumptions, his absence was not a sign of souring ties with the US due to Washington's approach over nuclear negotiations with Iran.
"This is not related in any way, shape or form to any disagreement between the two countries," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters adding that Salmaan had called Obama earlier to "express his regret at not being able to travel to Washington".
The summit will begin on Wednesday evening with a dinner with delegations from six-gulf nations of in the GCC at the White House and will continue on Thursday at Camp David in Maryland.
GCC nations - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman - were invited by Obama after six world powers had agreed to evaluate sanctions placed on Tehran for reviewing its nuclear program.
GCC nations are concerned about the possibility of Iran’s developing nuclear weapons and are worried that a nuclear deal would further strengthen Iran in the region as Iranian backed parties have already provoked conflicts countries such as Yemen and Syria.
“Gulf countries are right to be concerned about Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Obama said on Wednesday, talking exclusively to Asharq al-Awsat, which marks his first ever interview with an Arab newspaper.
“Iran clearly engages in dangerous and destabilizing behavior in different countries across the region. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. It helps prop up the Assad regime in Syria. It supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It aids the Houthi rebels in Yemen. So countries in the region are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations,” Obama added.
“There should be no doubt about the commitment of the United States to the security of the region and to our GCC partners,” he told Asharq al-Awsat.
“But even if the political dynamics in Iran do not change, a nuclear deal becomes even more necessary because it prevents a regime that is hostile to us from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told the newspaper.
US Secretary of State John Kerry wants to have an agreement with the GCC nations to tackle continuing conflicts in the region, AFP reported.
“I think all of the member states feel very strongly that defining a clearer defence arrangement between the GCC and other friendly countries and the United States is going to critical to helping them push back against terrorism,” he said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Turkey.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, met on Tuesday with U.S. Senator John McCain, ahead of a summit with other Gulf leaders, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
During the meeting, the two men discussed bilateral relations and means to enhance them.
They also spoke about regional and international matters, according to SPA.
Also on Tuesday, Sheikh Tamim met a number of other senators.