By Arab News
Saudi Arabia’s Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, who is on a historic visit to the US, met American President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington on Friday, with talks focusing on reining in Iran and tackling trouble spots in the Middle East.
Obama made the rare move of greeting King Salman at the doors of the White House, as he hailed the longstanding friendship between the two countries. This is King Salman’s first visit to the United States after assuming the throne in January this year.
In his welcome comments, Obama said: “It is a great pleasure to welcome His Majesty King Salman to the Oval Office. This is the latest of several meetings that I have had with King Salman. And the fact that he has chosen to take this first visit to the United States is indicative of the longstanding friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
He added: “We will discuss the importance of effectively implementing the (nuclear) deal to ensure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, while counteracting its destabilizing activities in the region.”
Obama said this is a challenging time in world affairs, particularly in the Middle East, “and so we expect this to be a substantive conversation across a wide range of issues. We share a concern about Yemen and the need to restore a functioning government that is inclusive and that can relieve the humanitarian situation there.
“We share concerns about the crisis in Syria, and we will have the opportunity to discuss how we can arrive at a political transition process within Syria that can finally end the horrific conflict there.
“We continue to cooperate extremely closely in countering terrorist activity in the region and around the world, including our battle against ISIL (Daesh). We’ll also have an opportunity to discuss the world economy and energy issues.
‘I’m happy to come to a friendly country’
“Your Majesty, welcome, and let me once again reaffirm not only our personal friendship but the deep and abiding friendship between our two peoples,” said Obama.
King Salman thanked Obama for the warm welcome. “I wanted to make my first official visit to the United States as a symbol of the deep and strong relationship that we have with the United States, with historic relations that go back to the day in 1945 when King Abdul Aziz met President Franklin Roosevelt,” said King Salman in Arabic.
“Our relationship is beneficial not only to our two countries, but to the entire world and our region. This is significant, and we must always affirm and deepen these relations and further our cooperation in all fields,” said King Salman.
“Mr. President, our economy is a free economy and, therefore, we must allow opportunities for business people to exchange opportunities, because if people see that there are common interests, they will themselves further the relations between them. Our relationship must be beneficial for both of us, not only economically but also on the political, military and defense fronts.”
“I’m happy to come to a friendly country to meet a friend. We want to work together for world peace. Our region must achieve stability, which is essential for the prosperity of its people. In our country, thank God, we are prosperous, but we want prosperity for the entire region. We are willing to cooperate with you to achieve that.”
Also in the Oval Office with King Salman and Obama were Vice-President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.
King Salman is accompanied by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, royal adviser Prince Abdul-Illah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Prince Khalid bin Fahd bin Khaled, and Minister of State Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban.
Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Minister of Commerce and Industry Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Minister of Culture and Information Adel Al-Toraifi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and General Intelligence President Khaled bin Ali Al-Humaidan are all part of the Saudi delegation.
The king arrived in the United States on Thursday. He was received by Kerry at Joint Base Andrews located outside Washington. Later, the king met with Kerry at his residence in Washington. During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations and discussed several issues of common interest. The meeting was attended by several members of the Saudi delegation.