Saturday, 21 April, 2018

Saudi prince makes first visit to USA, seeks more cooperation

Saudi crown prince's interview with CBS News set the tone for his US tour. Here's how Saudi crown prince's interview with CBS News set the tone for his US tour. Here's how
Patty Aguilar | 20 March, 2018, 17:02

Mohammed bin Salman comes to the USA touting a vision for a new Saudi Arabia.

"Bin Salman's illusionary and crude claim that al-Qaeda leaders are in Iran is a big lie and he can not spread lies to hide the role of Saudi Arabia in creating the most unsafe terrorist groups of the contemporary age and perpetrating important terrorist attacks like the 9/11", said Bahram Ghasemi, the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on Tuesday.

The powerful prince, considered the heir apparent to the Saudi throne, is expected to meet with officials from Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and the Walt Disney Co. studios, among other companies.

Bin Salman's visit is the first by a Gulf leader in a series of bilateral meetings the United States president is scheduled to have over the next couple of months.

But the deepening ties between the two countries face a number of challenges, including Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed by the country's airstrikes.

For his part, Mohammed wants more US investment and job creation in Saudi Arabia, along with technology and education help for his campaign to modernize the kingdom. But Trump has signaled he won't seek to impose USA values on countries that support American foreign policy and economic objectives - and Prince Mohammed arrives in the United States ready to cut deals.

Asked about the summit at a briefing in Washington, DC on Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he was unaware of any specific plans for a summit. As the world moves towards renewable energy - and with the end of Saudi Arabia's oil supplies on the distant horizon - the kingdom is finally looking to diversify its economy beyond fuel.

Trump, the senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity under White House ground rules, will also press the Saudis to resolve their dispute with Qatar, a key USA military asset in the region, before a gulf summit the president plans to host later in the spring. In November, he oversaw the arrests of more than 200 Saudi officials and businessmen. Reportedly coerced and in some cases physically abused, they reached settlements with the kingdom to transfer more than $100 billion in private wealth to Salman's control, according to The New York Times.

Saudi prince makes first visit to USA, seeks more cooperation

Reassuring the business community and strengthening economic ties is a key goal of the Saudi royal's almost three-week US tour.

From the capital of USA finance, he'll travel to the nation's technology centers, meeting with philanthropic groups as well as leaders of companies including Google, Apple, and Lockheed Martin Corp. Jared Kushner, whom the president has charged with restarting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, views Prince Mohammed as an ally who can influence the Palestinians and bring them to the table. Sadly, the conflict in Yemen is draining Saudi Arabia's precious financial resources. But Saudi officials have indicated this is not a priority for them, rejecting Washington's mediation.

"Saudi Arabia, security as a priority for the US".

"I don't see it as a quagmire", he said.

Although Prince Mohammed's statement appears to signal another opening for women's rights in the conservative kingdom, the prince's emphasis on "decent and respectful attire" means women will still not likely be allowed to wear whatever they would like to.

"He's trying to overcome a rather tarnished image of Saudi Arabia" over how the situation was handled, said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Wilson Center.

But the kingdom has witnessed a cautious new climate of social freedoms with the rise of the 32-year-old crown prince to power after decades of elderly rulers. Representatives from the three countries will be present to inaugurate it.

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