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Deputy crown prince leaves for Washington as Saudi FM meets Tillerson

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Author: Joyce KaramTue, 2017-03-14ID: 1489446919228916700WASHINGTON: Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and defense minister, on Monday departed to Washington on what is set to be the first official visit of its kind by a Gulf leader under the new US administration.The packed agenda for the visit is to include US-Saudi relations, counter-Daesh efforts and containing Iran.Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir kickstarted the visit with an hour-long meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This the second meeting in less than a month for Tillerson and Al-Jubeir, with the first taking place in Germany on the margins of the G-20 summit on Feb. 16.A US State Department official told Arab News that “Secretary Tillerson met with Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir today to discuss a number of critical bilateral and regional issues including the ongoing conflict in Yemen and counterterrorism efforts.”Strengthening economic and commercial ties and US support for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform program are also on the agenda.The meeting between Al-Jubeir and Tillerson was expected to address the deputy crown prince’s visit, including his highly anticipated meeting with US President Donald Trump later this week.Al-Jubeir had voiced optimism about US-Saudi relations last January. “We look forward to working with Trump’s administration to further the bilateral relationship and to further and to deal positively with the challenges, numerous challenges whether we are talking about Syria or Iraq or Yemen, Libya, fighting terrorism, dealing with the global financial issues, the energy,” he said at the time.Al-Jubeir also highlighted convergence with Trump in “containing Iran and limiting its ability to cause mischief and making sure that Iran abide to the letter with the nuclear agreement that was signed. Exactly this is our position. And we look forward to working with them in this area.”The visit by the deputy crown prince and meeting between Al-Jubeir and Tillerson comes one week after the US secretary of state ended a three-month freeze by the Obama administration on a $390 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The sale is expected to go through following interagency and Congressional approvals.Saudi-US relations have seen more diplomatic traffic since Trump entered office on Jan 20. CIA director Mike Pompeo visited Riyadh last month, while Trump held a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Jan 29. US Defense Secretary James Mattis also called the deputy crown prince last month.Containing Iran and defeating Daesh are heavily discussed in US-Saudi meetings. Riyadh has shown willingness to deploy special forces in the fight against Daesh, and Washington has increased its naval presence in the Gulf waters.
Main category: Saudi Arabia

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