IYADH, Saudi Arabia – Reassuring an anxious ally, President Barack Obama sat down Wednesday for a meeting with King Salman as he opened a trip to Saudi Arabia shadowed by the kingdom’s deep opposition to his Iran nuclear deal and skepticism about his approach to Syria.
Obama, during a roughly 24-hour stay in the Saudi capital, planned to attend a Persian Gulf summit focused on regional stability, Iran and counterterrorism – including the fight against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.
Under crystal chandeliers, King Salman greeted Obama in a grand foyer at Erga Palace, where the two walked slowly to a reception room as the smell of incense wafted. The two offered polite smiles as they sat down side by side for pictures at the start of their two-hour private meeting.
“The American people send their greetings and we are very grateful for your hospitality, not just for this meeting but for hosting the GCC-U.S. summit that’s taking place tomorrow,” Obama said, referring to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council summit.
King Salman offered similarly gracious words for the president, who is paying his fourth trip here for face-to-face meetings and photos with royal rulers since becoming president.
“The feeling is mutual between us and the American people,” the king said through a translator.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain are participating in the regional summit. In addition to the Islamic State, the talks are also expected to address the Saudi-led military campaign against Shiite rebels and their allies in neighboring Yemen.