President Donald Trump met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on Tuesday for a discussion likely to touch on economic relations and efforts to stop the war in Syria.
The meeting was the first since Trump’s 20 January inauguration with the prince, who is leading the kingdom’s efforts to revive state finances by diversifying the economy away from a reliance on falling crude oil revenues.
Trump, who took office in January, and Prince Mohammed, who is also the kingdom’s defence minister, kicked off their talks in the Oval Office, where they posed for a picture in front of journalists and did not take questions.
Also expected to be on the agenda were the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military campaign has failed to end a rebellion by Houthi militias, and cooperation against Islamic State.
The Saudis have appeared particularly relieved at the departure of Barack Obama, who they felt considered Riyadh’s alliance with Washington less important than negotiating a deal in 2015 to neutralise Iran’s nuclear program.
Arab officials have appeared optimistic about the Trump presidency. They see in him a strong president who will shore up Washington’s role as their main strategic partner and help contain Riyadh’s adversary Iran in a region central to US security and energy interests, regional analysts said.
Obama late last year also suspended the sale of US-made precision-guidance munitions to the Saudis, a reaction to thousands of civilian casualties from Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen.