Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court announced today that Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Defense Minister and King Salman’s son, will meet President Trump this week at the White House. This will be the first meeting between the U.S. president and a Saudi royal since the November election.
Crown Prince Mohammed left for the United States today, and the meeting between His Royal Highness and President Trump will take place possibly on Thursday. The White House has not commented on the visit or meeting between the two. An official statement by the Saudi Royal Court released by the Saudi Press Agency says that the Prince will not only meet with the President but also with other U.S. officials, as well. They are set to discuss “the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries and regional issues of mutual interest.”
The Deputy Crown Prince is leading an economic initiative for the kingdom to become less dependent on oil and its significant investments in American technology firms. The major issues likely to be brought up include global energy prices and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. In the latter country, in particular, a Saudi-led coalition supported by Washington has been bombing Iran-backed Shiite rebels for nearly two years.
During the Obama administration, relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States cooled significantly when the former president’s administration secured a nuclear deal with its regional rival, Iran, which has been heavily criticised by Trump. Saudi Arabia is the world’s top exporter of oil and the largest buyer of American-made arms. It is also part of the coalition bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Syria led by the United States.
Despite the previous tensions, Saudi Arabia has expressed optimism in the United States ability to rebuild this relationship with Washington and to contain Iran’s reach in the Gulf region. In a call two months ago between President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the two came to an agreement to “back safe zones in Syria and Yemen,” according to a statement by the White House.