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Sun 30 Mar 2014 11:48 AM

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Saudi, US remain 'strategically aligned' following talks

Meeting between King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama touches on counterterrorism, defense, economy and education

Saudi, US remain 'strategically aligned' following talks
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud. (Getty Images)

Saudi’s King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama have agreed to work closely and remain strategically aligned on a range of bilateral and regional issues following talks between the leaders in the kingdom over the weekend, it was reported.

“In his two-hour candid talks with King Abdullah, President Obama underscored how much he values their strategic relationship,” US Embassy spokesman Johann Schmonsees was quoted by Arab News as saying.

Obama, who wrapped up his visit on Saturday, also addressed the differences between Riyadh and Washington over security interests across the Middle East, he said.

Schmonsees said the US highlighted the progressively growing relations with the kingdom in diverse fields — counterterrorism, defense, economy, education, science, health and the environment.

“The US has had an important relationship with Saudi Arabia for decades in security, energy, economics and regional security issues. The president wanted to make clear that this continues to be the case,” he said.

“(The meeting) was opportunity for the US president to sit down face-to-face with the king and do two things — underscore the importance of bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and talk about some of the key regional issues that affect both of our interests so profoundly.”

Political analyst Khaled Al Dekhayel was quoted as saying that Saudis and Americans appeared to have “narrowed” their disagreements on Syria and Iran following talks.

“But at the same time, the US administration has to satisfy Saudis and other allies in the region, including Turkey and Jordan,” he said.

Saudi analyst Abdulaziz Al Sagr, who heads the UAE-based Gulf Research Center said: “Saudi-US relations have actually become tense due to Washington’s stance on issues in the Middle East, but especially Iran.”

A fact sheet released by the White House on Friday highlighted Saudi efforts to curb terrorism.

It also said the US and Saudi defense forces enjoyed outstanding partnerships and regularly participated in “joint exercises to advance shared interests in Gulf security.”

Before leaving Riyadh, Obama presented the US State Department’s Women of Courage award to Maha Al Muneef, a well-known Saudi social worker and executive director of the Kingdom’s National Family Safety Program, who was honoured for her role in initiating laws to combat domestic violence.

“I am doing this on behalf of Michelle Obama,” said Obama as he presented the award at a brief ceremony at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.