US stresses military ties with Riyadh despite tensions

US stresses military ties with Riyadh despite tensions
Sat Mar 22, 2014 09:37:48

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has reaffirmed US military ties to Riyadh despite discord over Washington’s Iran and Syria policies, officials said.

During a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister in Washington, Hagel made clear to Prince Salman Bin Sultan that the US would continue its diplomacy with Iran, he underscored the importance of US-Saudi military cooperation, a defense official said.

Saudi Arabia harbors grave reservations about attempts by Washington and other major powers to negotiate a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, but “Hagel stressed our position on Iran has not changed,” said the senior US official.

The official said the two discussed tensions among Persian Gulf states, as Qatar has angered Riyadh and other members of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood in the region and harder line extremists in Syria.

The two leaders reaffirmed the strength of the US-Saudi relationship, with Secretary Hagel emphasizing the commitment of the United States to security in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

“They also discussed regional challenges and the importance of regional cooperation in addressing common security issues.”

Prince Salman earlier met Deputy Secretary of State William Burns during his first visit to Washington since taking over as deputy defense minister in August.

The son of late crown prince and veteran defense minister Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz who died in 2011, he previously served in the Saudi embassy in the US capital.

The Obama administration’s diplomatic opening with Iran and its reluctance to military intervention in the Syrian conflict have frustrated the Saudi leadership and caused serious tensions in the decades-long strategic alliance.


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