Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Washington: Saudi Arabia Plays Leading Role in Solving Syrian Crisis | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55352724

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) greets Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman outside Kerry’s residence prior to their meeting on June 13, 2016, in Washington, DC. Molley Riley/AFP

Washington-The current historic visit of Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States left enormous echoes in the U.S. institutions.

The Deputy Crown Prince held closed meetings on Wednesday with a number of leading members from the U.S. Congress, including officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties and high-ranking members at the Foreign Affairs and the Military Affairs Committees.

U.S. Department of State spokesperson John Kirby said that the meeting between Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the latter’s personal residence in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington witnessed the discussion of several issues, mainly the Syrian crisis and the developments in Libya and Yemen, and efforts to combat terrorism.

U.S. sources said that the meetings and talks between Saudi and U.S. officials were fruitful and friendly, and had tackled the latest terrorist attack in Orlando and the importance of fighting terrorism and intensifying the joint efforts to face those threats.

“If you’re asking if there’s this big philosophical divide between the Saudis and the United States on how to move forward on the ground in Syria, the answer is ‘no,'” Kirby said.

Kirby said Saudi Arabia had been one of the first countries to join the United States and Russia in forming the International Syria Support Group, which was established to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

He said: “If it were not for Saudi leadership, we wouldn’t have that first meeting of the Syrian opposition groups back in December in Riyadh.”

He said the Saudis share the U.S. concerns about trying to implement a political agreement in Syria that could lead to a transitional operation and the creation of a new government not headed by Bashar Assad.

He added that the U.S. is concerned to follow ISIS in Syria and stop the organization’s attacks. “The Saudis are the leading figures capable to help us stop (ISIS’s) aggressive activities,” Kirby said.

International reports published prior to Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the U.S. had hinted that Riyadh was upset with Washington’s policies in Syria, and had asked the Obama administration to step up arms supplies to the Syrian opposition.

However, the U.S. Department of State had clearly denied the presence of any dispute with Riyadh, and on the contrary, had praised the Saudi role in dealing with the crisis in Syria.

On Wednesday, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s schedule was packed with a number of meetings with U.S. officials.

The Prince met in Washington with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan and held a number of bilateral meetings with heads and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives’ various committees. He also met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman also met with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John McCain and held a closed meeting with several members from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

On Tuesday, the Prince had met with CIA Chief John Brennan in Virginia and with head of the National Defense Agency, James Clapper.

Prior to the Prince’s meetings with heads of the intelligence agencies, Brennan had accounted there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials had individually supported the 9/11 attacks.

On Thursday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with Republican Majority at the House of Representatives leader Mitch McConnell and members from both Republican and Democratic parties. He will also receive at his residence head of the Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donohue. Then he will hold a closed meeting with his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter at the Department of Defense headquarters.

Saudi sources said that Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s meeting with his U.S. counterpart could tackle agreements on new arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

Another source said that the talks aim at recovering mutual trust between both forces.

The U.S. administration is also eager to listen to what Prince Mohammed bin Salman has to say concerning the political and economic policies of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which will offer new opportunities for U.S. companies concerned with investing in the Kingdom, and therefore will look forward to a financial and economic cooperation between the countries.

In this regard, the Prince is expected to meet with a number of CEOs from Wall Street where he will brief them on Saudi economic plans, such as the King Abdullah Economic City and the Kingdom’s readiness to sell 5 percent of Aramco’s shares. Saudi Arabia is also expected to add 450,000 non-governmental job opportunities by 2020.

Elliott Abrams, the former deputy national security adviser to former President George Bush, said that what the Crown Prince will say about Vision 2030 would attract several U.S. companies interested to invest in the Kingdom, a step that would enhance Saudi-U.S. relations.

Abrams said the U.S. is optimistic about the new Saudi economic plan. However, he warned that any failure in implementing it would lead to the Kingdom’s decline.

Executive Chairman of the National Council for Saudi-U.S. Relations Dr. John Anthony has welcomed Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the United States, disclosing that the trip comes t an important and sensitive time in light of events and changes, especially in the Arab region.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Dr. Anthony has lauded a constructive role and joint existing coordination between the Kingdom and the United States towards addressing many regional and international files, particularly in the field of combating terrorism and terrorists and financing of terrorism for the benefit of the two countries and the world.

Dr. Anthony stressed the importance of enhancing bilateral relations between the Kingdom and the U.S. in various fields to expand and maintain these relations in the interest of the two friendly countries.

Separately, Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and will then hold a series of meetings in the State of California.