Obama to travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss security, tensions

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 3, 2014 12:43pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) stands next to Vice President Joseph Biden as he discusses unemployment, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) stands next to Vice President Joseph Biden as he discusses unemployment, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 31, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday that President Barack Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia in March to meet with King Abdullah to discuss a range of security issues in the Middle East that have caused some strains in the bilateral relationship.

The rare visit, which comes at the end of an Obama trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, will include discussions about "Gulf and regional security, peace in the Middle East, countering violent extremism, and other issues of prosperity and security," the White House said in a statement.

King Abdullah met Secretary of State John Kerry in November and discussed concerns about the unwillingness of the United State to intervene in Syria and recent overtures to its arch-rival, Iran.

Saudi Arabia turned down a seat on the United Nations Security Council in October, in a display of anger at the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria.

That month, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief said the kingdom was looking at making a "major shift" in relations with the United States.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have long been close allies on military and energy issues.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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