The White House moved to tamp down suggestions that ties with Saudi Arabia are fraying, with administration officials saying that President Barack Obama “really cleared the air” with King Salman at a meeting Wednesday.
Yet even as White House officials stressed that the leaders made progress, a prominent member of the Saudi royal family told CNN “a recalibration” of the U.S.-Saudi relationship was needed amid regional upheaval, dropping oil prices and ongoing strains between the two longtime allies.
Obama landed in Riyadh earlier Wednesday for a summit with Gulf leaders and spent two-and-a-half hours meeting with the 80-year-old monarch on issues that have recently strained the alliance, including the conflict in Yemen, the role of Iran, Lebanon’s instability and the fight against ISIS, U.S. officials said.
Statements after the meeting made clear that deep differences remain on several of these points, with the two sides agreeing to disagree and a U.S. official characterizing the encounter as the start of a discussion rather than a venue for solutions.
But the two leaders glossed over some of the thorniest matters, including a Saudi threat to dump U.S. assets if Obama signs into law a bill that could make the kingdom liable for damages stemming from the September 11 terror attacks.
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