Obama, new Saudi king expected to talk about IS, Yemen
NEW DELHI, India – US President Barack Obama and the new Saudi king are expected to discuss the military campaign against Islamic State group extremists and the crisis in Yemen at upcoming talks in Riyadh, the White House said Monday, January 26.
Obama's brief visit to the Saudi capital on Tuesday was mainly intended as an opportunity to meet King Salman "and to pay respects to the family and to the people of Saudi Arabia" after the death last week of long-time ruler King Abdullah, a senior official said.
"But I'm sure that while we are there, they will touch on some of the leading issues where we cooperate very closely with Saudi Arabia," White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said in New Delhi.
"Clearly that would include the continued counter-ISIL campaign where the Saudis have been a partner and have joined us in military operations.
"That of course also includes the situation in Yemen where we have coordinated very closely with Saudi Arabia and the other countries."
Obama decided to cut short a three-day visit to India and head to Riyadh after the death of Abdullah, whose country is a long-time ally of the United States as well as the world's leading oil exporter.
Obama's decision to travel in person reflects a determination to maintain close ties with the Saudis, who have been part of a US-led bombing campaign against IS group extremists in Syria since last year.
IS, also known as ISIL, holds vast swathes of territory in both Syria and Saudi Arabia's northern neighbor Iraq, where it has declared an Islamic "caliphate".
Saudi Arabia is also seen as having a crucial role to play in ending the unrest in its southern neighbor Yemen, where a powerful Shiite militia recently took over the capital Sanaa.
Rhodes said the new king and Obama had held talks in the past but Tuesday's meeting would be "a good opportunity for them to sit down and exchange views and initiate the relationship as leader to leader".
Asked if Obama planned to raise concerns over the Saudis' human rights record, Rhodes said that it was "a topic that we raise regularly with Saudi Arabia". – Rappler.com