President Donald Trump welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as a friend of the U.S. and “big purchaser” of American armaments and investments.
“A lot of people are at work” because of Saudi Arabia’s business, Trump said, adding that the kingdom has finalized $12.5 billion in purchases of planes, missiles and frigates from U.S. companies.
Prince Mohammed praised the kingdom’s “really deep” relationship with the U.S. and said the Saudis are considering $400 billion in U.S. investment opportunities.
“A lot of things could be tackled in the close future and more opportunities and that’s why we’re here today,” the prince added.
Prince Mohammed is starting a three-week trip across the U.S., his first visit since being designated the successor of his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are developing an increasingly close partnership, encompassing everything from isolating Iran to bolstering business ties beyond energy into technology, defense and entertainment, according to top U.S. and Saudi officials.
The prince used the stop in Washington to nurture contacts across party lines. He included meetings with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, according to a Saudi embassy statement. Absent from the schedule was House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
With a group of senators pressing to end U.S. intervention in Yemen in support of Saudi allies, the prince made arguments that the two countries could work together toward a political solution to the conflict, according to the statement. He also offered assurances of Saudi commitment to providing Yemen humanitarian assistance amid criticism over civilian suffering in the conflict.
Trump told reporters as the two leaders opened meetings the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “now is probably as good as it’s really ever been and I think will probably only get better.” The U.S. president added that relations were “very, very strained” under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The Trump administration has adopted a pro-Saudi posture that is a dramatic shift from the Obama administration, which was cool to Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers over a human rights record that remains abysmal, according to advocacy groups such as Amnesty International. Trump has signaled he won’t seek to impose U.S. values on countries that support American foreign policy and economic objectives — and Prince Mohammed arrives in the U.S. ready to cut deals.
Trump praised Saudi Arabia for “working very hard” to stop funding for terrorism in the region.
The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund announced on Monday that it would take a $400 million stake in Endeavor, one of Hollywood’s biggest talent and event managers. More deals are likely during Prince Mohammed’s trip, which runs through April 7.
One focus of Prince Mohammed’s meeting with Trump will be expanding cooperation to counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East, including the Islamic Republic’s alliance with Russia, according to White House officials who briefed reporters before the crown prince’s arrival.
For more on Saudi Arabia:
Read a profile of Mohammed bin SalmanClick here for a look at Saudi Arabia’s makeover plansAnd here for a look at the Saudi quest for nuclear powerSee what the breach with Qatar is aboutRead about the war in Yemen and the resulting disasterTrump foreshadowed a decision next month on the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a deal struck by his predecessor that he opposed before taking office and has criticized since.
“The Iran deal is coming up. It’s pr