President Barack Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia to hold a meeting with King Salman Riyadh on Wednesday, April 20. With the growing tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this trip was timely. This tension stems from Saudi opposition to American outreach to Iran and the correspondence with Syria.
Obama was greeted by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the governor of Riyadh on a red carpet arriving off of Air Force One. With a translator, Salman spoke to Obama at the king’s Erga Palace. The two leaders smiled and interacted with one another politely as they took photos prior to their one-one-one meeting.
According to U.S. News, Salman told Obama, “The feeling is mutual between us and the American people.”
Obama was in Saudi Arabia as a part of The Persian Gulf Summit along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. The purpose of this regional summit was to focus on regional stability and counterterrorism. According to U.S. News, the summit was also scheduled to address the fight against Al-Qaida, the military campaign against Shiite rebels as well as their Yemen allies and the Islamic State.
U.S. officials are hopeful that this meeting will expand upon last year’s summit, while still acknowledging the tension that wanes between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Obama’s remarks suggest that Saudi Arabia is upset with the cooperation between the United States and Iran.
NBC News reported that in relation to Saudi Arabia’s enemy Iran, Obama stated, “What I’ve said to them is we have to have a dual track,” he told reporters, referring to his discussions with the Gulf leaders.
“We have to be effective in our defenses and hold Iran to account where it is acting in ways that are contrary to international rules and norms, but we also have to have the capacity to enter into a dialogue,” he said.
He said mistrust has grown “in part because of Iranian provocations,” but added that dialogue did not equate to the U.S. giving Iran an easy ride.
“Even when the Soviet Union was threatening the destruction of the United States there was still dialogue so that we could find ways to reduce tensions,” he said. “Even as Iran was calling us the Great Satan we were able to get a deal done that got rid of their nuclear stockpiles and that makes us safer. And that’s not a sign of weakness, that’s a sign of strength.”
Saudi Arabia has its qualms with the United States due to their relations with Iran, the legislation that aid families of the victims of 9/11 in holding Saudi Arabia accountable for the attacks and the U.S. being hesitant towards its involvement in Syria. Saudi Arabia has been in the limelight due to it being a main opponent to Iran’s allies. The Middle East as a whole has been dealing with all of these issues, including the Islamic State, according to NBC News.
CNN reports that another group of Republican and Democratic senators proposed a bipartisan bill to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia to oppose their war in Yemen.
Prior to Obama’s departure to London, Salman described the two leader’s meeting as “a constructive and fruitful summit.”
Editor’s Note: Information from CNN, NBC News and U.S. News was used in this report.