Washington, Riyadh – US President Donald Trump had lunch on Tuesday with Saudi deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman in the White House in Washington where the two men held lengthy closed-door talks.
Sources at the White House said the meeting, held at the historic family dining room, tackled bolstering the strategic US-Saudi bilateral relations and also discussed the political situation in each of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
The two leaders touched on issues related to the International Coalition against ISIS and the proposal of the new US administration to establish safe zones for refugees in Syria.
The Saudi deputy Crown Prince’s visit to Washington has a special importance for being the first meeting by Trump with a Gulf official and the second with an Arab leader after assuming the presidency on January 20.
Trump’s meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman is significant in its timing in light of the challenges in the region and the US administration’s efforts to speed up the defeat of ISIS.
The two officials uncovered the positions and visions of each of Riyadh and Washington vis-à-vis the heated issues in the region.
Concerning the Iranian file, the US administration praised the strong Saudi positions against Tehran’s behavior in the region and its interference in the affairs of other states.
The leaders also pledged their support to Bahrain, Egypt and Sudan in confronting the challenges they are facing.
Gerald Feierstein, a former US Ambassador to Yemen and director of the Center for Gulf Affairs at the Middle East Institute, told AP on Tuesday that the mood is still optimistic between Washington and Riyadh.
He said the appointment of former Exxon chief Rex Tillerson as secretary of state may sit well with the Saudis.
Feierstein added that other areas of potential divergence include any expectations from the White House that Saudi Arabia would formalize relations with Israel in the absence of a Palestinian peace deal.
Meanwhile, Tillerson received Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir at the headquarters of the State Department in Washington on Tuesday.
The two officials discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and the latest developments on the regional and international arenas, including the situations in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, in addition to the efforts being exerted by either side to fight terrorism and combat extremism.