President Obama in late March will travel to Saudi Arabia, a longtime American ally whose relationship with Washington has frayed in recent months over rising concerns about U.S. policy toward Iran and Syria.
In announcing the travel, the White House made it clear the visit is aimed at mending fences with Riyadh, the United States' main Arab ally.
Obama plans to visit with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to discuss the “enduring and strategic ties” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, as well as the “ongoing cooperation to advance a range of common interests related to 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 released Monday.
Last fall, Saudi Arabia declined a coveted seat on the United Nations Security Council, a move that signaled the depth of Saudi anger over the U.S. decision not to send more arms to the Syrian opposition, and more recently, the deal with Iran to roll back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The White House has added the visit to Saudi Arabia to the end of the president's long March travel itinerary. At the end of the month, Obama plans to make stops in the Netherlands to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Brussels for a meeting with presidents of the European Council and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Rome where he will meet with Pope Francis for the first time.