Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Saudi Arabia to talk Iran and economy

He met with King Salman other senior officials and will head to Oman next

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Saudi Arabia to discuss Iran and regional security after an American attack last month killed a top Iranian general.

In meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mr Pompeo also raised economic issues, he said ahead of the meeting.

Talks with King Salman on Thursday looked at Saudi-US relations and current regional and international events, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

Mr Pompeo also met with his opposite number Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

"Pleased to be back in Riyadh to discuss the US government’s strong commitment to Saudi Arabia's security and the continued need to stand together to counter Iran's malign behaviour in the region," Mr Pompeo wrote on Twitter upon his arrival.

Following his meeting at the Royal Palace with the king, Mr Pompeo headed to a Saudi air base where some 2,500 US troops are stationed in response to threats from Iran.

Saudi Arabia has backed the Trump administration's efforts to counter Iran but cautioned against military action after attacks last year damaged its oil facilities.

Riyadh blamed the attacks on Tehran, which denies responsibility. The Iran-backed Houthis has claimed responsibility for the attack although the US, UN and others have ruled out that the Yemeni rebels could have conducted the operation.

Washington and Tehran backed off from intensified conflict last month after a US air strike in Baghdad killed Qassem Suleimani and Tehran retaliated with missile strikes on US bases, injuring more than 100 troops.

"We are not rushed, the pressure campaign continues," Mr Pompeo said before his flight to Riyadh. "It's not just an economic pressure campaign. It's isolation through diplomacy as well.

"We'll spend a lot of time talking about the security issues, the threats from Iran in particular, but we'll talk about a broad range of things."

The US military presence in the Kingdom at the Prince Sultan Air Base includes a squadron of US Air Force F-15E fighters that fly daily missions over Iraq and Syria and two American Patriot missile batteries prepared to counter any Iranian attack against the Saudi kingdom.

American troops were sent to Saudi Arabia last summer as part of efforts by Donald Trump administration to beef up the United States' military presence in the Middle East in response to escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Mr Pompeo's trip comes three weeks after US President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan for Israel and Palestine, which Palestinians rejected outright.

Saudi Arabia expressed support for direct peace negotiations under US auspices while reaffirming its unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.

During his time in Riyadh, Mr Pompeo also met with a group of Saudi women business leaders at the residence of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar. Mr Pompeo departs Friday for Oman, a close US ally that recently announced a new Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, following the death of his predecessor Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

"Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met with Saudi deputy defence minister Khalid bin Salman Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia yesterday. Secretary Pompeo and the deputy minister discussed the continued threat posed by the Iranian regime and the United States’ commitment to work with Saudi Arabia to face these threats," spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said a day after the visit.

"On Yemen, the Secretary thanked the deputy minister for his continued efforts toward a political resolution to the conflict. The secretary underscored the need to implement the Riyadh Agreement to facilitate the continuation of the UN-led political process. The secretary and the deputy minister also discussed the situations in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon; the need for a united GCC; and consular and human rights issues," he added.

Updated: February 23, 2020 06:12 PM

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