The White House sought to quash concerns that the withdrawal of four of the six top leaders of Gulf nations from a planned summit later this week at Camp David signals strained relations between the administration and countries in that region.
Of the six Arab states invited, only two of the those countries — Kuwait and Qatar — plan on sending their top leaders. The remaining countries Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are all sending delegates.
“There had been some speculation that this change in travel plans was an attempt to send a message to the U.S. — if so, the message was not received because all the feedback we have gotten from the Saudis has been positive,” Earnest told reporters on Monday.
Monday afternoon, King Salman called President Obama and “expressed his regret at not being able to travel to Washington this week” according to the White House readout of the call. Both leaders reviewed the agenda for the summit and discussed Iran, Yemen and the need to work closely to address a range of threats.
The White House hopes the summit will be an opportunity to discuss “our shared concern about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” and address military cooperation throughout the region, deputy press Secretary Eric Schultz had said previously. The talks will also likely include a potential deal between several world powers and Iran on that country’s nuclear program as well as crises in Syria and Yemen.