Washington: President Barack Obama and the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia on Friday discussed ways to support Iraqis in their fight against Daesh militants and the importance of a political transition in war-torn Syria, the White House said.
Obama met with Mohammad Bin Salman in the Oval office for about an hour. The deputy crown prince is visiting the United States to repair frayed relations and to promote a plan, known as Vision 2030, to slash the kingdom’s dependence on oil exports.
“The President expressed appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s contributions to the campaign against Daesh,” the White House said.
The two talked about steps to support Iraqis “including increased Gulf support to fund urgent humanitarian and stabilisation needs,” the White House said.
Saudi Arabia is worried about closer relations between the United States and Iran, Riyadh’s arch enemy, after a 2015 nuclear deal.
Obama welcomed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a political settlement of the Yemen conflict and support by the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the kingdom is a member, to address humanitarian needs and rebuild the country, the White House said.
On Syria, Obama and the prince talked about the importance of supporting a political transition away from President Bashar Al Assad, the White House said. The United States is working with international partners on what it calls a Syrian-led transition process facilitated by the United Nations, but so far there has been little progress.
Over 50 diplomats at the US State Department signed a memo, leaked on Thursday, that was critical of the Obama administration’s Syria policy and called for targeted military strikes against Al Assad’s government.
Asked about the memo, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, also in Washington, told reporters the kingdom had been arguing for a “more robust intervention” including airstrikes, a no-fly zone, and a no-drive zone, from the beginning of the five-year civil war.
Obama does not see a military solution to the crisis in Syria, White House spokeswoman Jen Friedman said.
Both Washington and Riyadh are anticipating the release of classified pages of a US report into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, that some US lawmakers have alleged link Saudi government officials to the attacks. Al Jubeir said investigations show that the allegations “are not correct and they don’t hold.”
Meanwhile, Prince Mohammad headed west to meet with technology executives in Silicon Valley and then to New York to pitch his nation’s new economic plan to Wall Street investors.
He wants to discuss how Saudi Arabia can benefit from innovations spawned in California and then talk with New York investors about opportunities, including with the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Saudi Arabia plans an initial public offering of the world’s largest oil company, known as Saudi Aramco, which the prince expects to be valued at more than $2 trillion.
The prince, who’s the son of King Salman, is leading Saudi Arabia’s biggest-ever economic shakeup, moving to cut subsidies and diversify the economy away from oil by generating an extra $100 billion in non-oil revenue by 2020.
In Washington, he discussed economic and business issues with Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients, US Chamber of Commerce officials and executives from US companies.
He also discussed sensitive defense and foreign policy issues with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and visited the CIA to meet with Director John Brennan.