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Obama to visit Saudi Arabia in April

Visit could be aimed at patching up ties after US president criticised Riyadh’s regional role

Image Credit: REUTERS
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on divisiveness in U.S. politics at the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Gulf News

Washington: President Barack Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia and Britain next month ahead of his long-planned trip to Germany.

The White House says Obama will head to Saudi Arabia on April 21 for a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Obama last year hosted leaders from the group of Gulf nations. They’ll discuss the fight against Daesh and other Mideast security concerns.

Obama also will visit London, where he’ll have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and meet with Prime Minister David Cameron. Obama has encouraged the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union ahead of a June 23 referendum.

Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes on the heels of a scathing letter by Saudi prince Turki Al Faisal reacting to Obama’s criticisms of Riyadh’s regional role.

Obama, in comments to The Atlantic last week, described Saudi Arabia as a “free rider” on American foreign policy, and criticised what he saw as Riyadh’s funding of religious intolerance and refusal to come to an accommodation with Iran.

“No, Mr Obama. We are not ‘free riders’,” Prince Turki, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to Washington and London, wrote in an open letter carried by the local Arab News English-language daily.

Prince Turki listed Riyadh’s support for Syrian rebels fighting Daesh, its humanitarian aid for refugees in the region and its creation of an Islamic anti-terrorism coalition.

In his letter, Turki asked whether Obama had “pivoted to Iran so much you equate the kingdom’s 80 years of constant friendship with America to an Iranian leadership that continues to describe America as the biggest enemy, that continues to arm, fund and support sectarian militias in the Arab and Muslim world”.

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