WASHINGTON – A senior American official said on Monday that the upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be a "tremendous opportunity to make progress on a range of issues" that are important to both countries. The senior official spoke to reporters in Washington ahead of the crown prince's arrival to the White House on Tuesday.
According to the official, among the topics the two leaders will discuss are "Iran's aggression" in the Middle East and the support Russia lends to Tehran. Saudi Arabia is engaged in proxy wars against Iran in Syria and Yemen. The senior official said that Trump and the crown prince will also talk about "Russia's role in supporting the atrocities of the Assad regime in Syria." The official said that they will look for ways to "make Russia pay a price."
Another matter that will come up, the senior official added, is the Trump administration's plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "We'll discuss the peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, and the situation in Gaza," said the official, adding that the American side will "thank the Saudis for their participation in the Gaza conference" which took place at the White House last week.
Saudi Arabia has expressed support for the peace efforts led by Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law.
Trump will also discuss the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar with Salman and "emphasize the importance of a unified Gulf Cooperation Council," said the official, referring to an umbrella organization of six countries in the Persian Gulf. This, the official explained, is important in order to "create a bulwark" against Iran, and ensure economic prosperity in the region.
On this issue, just like on Syria, Yemen and the peace process, it's not clear what is the actual American policy behind the broad statements.
The two leaders will also discuss Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions, an issue that has created some tension recently between Israel and the United States, according to news reports.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Trump during his own D.C. visit two weeks ago not to assist Saudi Arabia with its nuclear capabilities. He fears this could ultimately allow the kingdom to enrich the uranium required to produce nuclear weapons. However, Trump refused, reportedly saying that if the United States won’t assist Saudi Arabia in its nuclear ambitions, other countries will.