U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia today to pay his respects for the country’s late King Abdullah. Underscoring the importance of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, Obama cut short his long-planned trip to India to visit the kingdom and meet with newly named King Salman. CCTV America’s Nathan King reported this story from Washington, D.C.
Obama honors late Saudi King Abdullah; meets with King SalmanU.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia today to pay his respects for the country's late King Abdullah. Underscoring the importance of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, Obama cut short his long-planned trip to India to visit the kingdom and meet with newly named King Salman. CCTV America's Nathan King reported this story from Washington, D.C.
The visit lasted just a few hours, but it underscored the close ties between the U.S. and Saudi governments. Shortly before his arrival, Obama acknowledged the need to balance differences over human rights with areas of mutual concern. King Salman is expected to continue many of the policies of the late King Abdullah — policies that have not always been in line with the U.S.
Arriving in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, with a military band playing the national anthems of both countries, Obama and Salman had enough time for dinner and a bilateral meeting where the two leaders discussed regional stability.
They discussed the situation in Yemen where the pro-western government has collapsed following an armed uprising by Shiite Houthi rebels. U.S. officials are playing down links between the rebels and Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rivals.
There were also talks on the counter-terrorism fight against ISIL and negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program.
The U.S. said it sees King Salman’s accession to the throne as a sign of continuity. White House officials expect future policies will be “quite similar.”
Washington and Riyadh have had differences, especially over human rights, something Obama acknowledged just before the visit.
Following the death of King Abdullah, the U.S. and other visiting leaders to Riyadh this week are looking for signs of potential policy shifts. On oil prices, many wonder if the new king will lower production in a bid to boost prices that have fallen by more than half in just a few months — and whether the new King’s call for unity in the Muslim world will lead to a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia controls 40 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
Over the past few years, there have been sharp differences between Riyadh and Washington over support for the Arab Spring uprising, to intervention in Bahrain and Syria.
But there is also common ground. The alliance is strategically important when it comes to battling terrorism and maintaining stability in the Middle East.