Saudi Arabia has said it is satisfied with US assurances on its nuclear deal with Iran, following talks between US President Barack Obama and Saudi King Salman in Washington DC.
At a press briefing at the Saudi Arabian embassy on Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the countries had agreed on ways “to counter Iran’s negative activities” in the Middle East and ensure Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is satisfied with these assurances after having spent the last two months consulting with its allies in Europe and other places,” Jubeir said.
“We believe this agreement will contribute to security and stability in the region by preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability.”
Jubeir said the two countries had also agreed on strengthening military cooperation and the “fast-tracking of military systems and weapons technology” from the US to Saudi Arabia.
Other issues discussed included anti-terror strategy and the situation in Yemen, where Saudi forces are part of a coalition taking on Houthi rebels who control large parts of the country.
The two leaders have been seeking a renewal of an historic American-Saudi strategic partnership that has frayed recently amid a rising set of challenges in the Middle East.
The civil war in Syria and the recent collapse in global oil prices were also discussed.
Jubeir said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy and has no role in the future of the country.
Saudi Arabia is supporting Syrian rebels fighting against the government Assad. Salman is likely to press Obama on the US’ stated goal of achieving a managed political transition in Syria.
So far, Obama’s military engagement in Syria has been limited to targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), stopping short of challenging Assad, who has Iran’s backing.
The visit was the first by the new Saudi king to Washington since ascending to the throne and comes at an auspicious time for Obama as the president nears a political victory in the US Congress over opponents of an Iran nuclear deal.
The king’s visit to the White House gives Obama the appearance of acquiescence from a key leader in the region.
“What’s much more concerning to the Saudis are Iranians’ policies in the region at-large,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East analyst at the Wilson Center in Washington.
“The Iran deal is going to bring them in from the cold, and sanctions relief is going to provide resources for their regional aspirations.
“That will be very much on Salman’s mind, as well as Yemen, Syria, to a lesser extent Iraq, and Iran’s support for Hezbollah,” Miller told Al Jazeera.
For Obama, King Salman’s visit is a consummation of the US campaign to win support for the nuclear agreement through promises of increased regional military cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states, as laid out at the Camp David summit in May. A joint statement by the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council last month cited “Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilising activities in the region”.
High on King Salman’s agenda was winning increased US logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, the success of which will be vital to cementing the new king’s position in the region and base of support at home.
The Saudis have called for an end to the rebellion in Yemen by the Iran-backed Houthis and have led a major campaign of intervention with backing from Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, and Bahrain. Saudi-backed forces are preparing to recapture the rebel-held capital of Sanaa, a city of two million.
“The president and the king will discuss a range of issues and focus on ways to further strengthen the bilateral relationship, including our joint security and counterterrorism efforts,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “They will also discuss regional topics, including the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, and steps to counter Iran’s destabilising activities in the region.”