RIYADH: US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis met Saudi King Salman on Wednesday, beginning a series of talks to reinvigorate the Riyadh-Washington alliance in the face of common adversary Iran.
The retired four-star Marine general, accompanied by a US delegation, was welcomed by Salman at Al-Yamama Palace in Riyadh, telling the monarch: “It’s good to be back.” Mattis, who commanded troops during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, arrived in the kingdom on Tuesday afternoon to listen to Saudi leaders and learn “what are their priorities”, an American defence official said earlier.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.
But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of president Barack Obama.
Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and was tilting toward Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.
The Sunni Muslim kingdom “felt marginalised” during international negotiations on a nuclear accord with Shiite Iran, the defence official said.
That deal, signed in July 2015 by the Obama administration, saw the lifting of international sanctions in exchange for guarantees that Tehran will not pursue a nuclear weapons capability.
Mattis was also to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Salman’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who holds the defence portfolio.
The deputy crown prince last month held talks with President Donald Trump in Washington.– Agencies

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