Arab-Islamic-US summit touted as ‘historic event’

The summit comes amid efforts from Washington and Riyadh to improve and solidify long-standing relations.

Partnership. US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in the State Dining Room of the White House, last March. (AP)

2017/05/14 Issue: 106 Page: 5

The Arab Weekly
Mohammed Alkhereiji

London- An Arab-Islamic-US sum­mit to be attended by US President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia is being anticipated as a “historic event” that could shape the future of the Middle East.

Heads of state from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Iraq and Tunisia, among other Arab and Muslim leaders, received invita­tions to the summit scheduled for May 20-21. It will be the first time a US president will visit a Muslim Arab country during his first trip abroad after his inauguration.

Saudi diplomatic sources said the summit aimed to establish a unified vision in the Arab and Is­lamic worlds to combat extremism and terrorism and to create stabil­ity, consistency and understanding in line with the global community.

An example of this would be the invitation of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The sources said the invitation reflected a new ap­proach in Saudi Arabia to lead Arab action without excluding any par­ty. Saudi Arabia and Abadi’s gov­ernment have been working to normalise relations, following a visit to Iraq by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in February.

Jubeir, speaking May 4 in Wash­ington, said that, besides a meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a summit with Gulf Coopera­tion Council (GCC) leaders was to take place as well as meetings in­volving leaders of Arab and Islamic countries during the gathering in Riyadh.

“This visit will enhance, we be­lieve, cooperation between the United States and Arab and Islamic countries in combating terrorism and extremism.” Jubeir said, ac­cording to the Saudi press agency.

Jubeir pointed out that Saudi Arabia was the United States’ first partner in combating terrorism and was at the forefront of countries addressing Iran’s interference in re­gional affairs.

“This is an important issue for the United States. Therefore, the partnership with the kingdom is very important.” he said.

The summit comes amid efforts from Washington and Riyadh to improve and solidify long-standing relations, strained during the eight years of the Obama administration.

During that time, Saudi Arabia and its fellow Gulf Arab neigh­bours viewed US President Barack Obama’s lack of engagement in the region, coupled with the nuclear deal signed with Iran, as a stab in the back, feeling that the deal com­promised regional security and empowered the Islamic Republic to continue what Riyadh says are Tehran’s destabilising activities in the Gulf and beyond.

Saudi Arabia also saw the United States scale back support in the conflict with Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen. This was capped by the Obama administration’s deci­sion to halt a $300 million sale of precision-guided missiles, a move unfrozen by Trump.

Efforts to reaffirm ties began after Trump’s election and were capped with a meeting at the White House between the newly elected president and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Trump’s first meeting with a Gulf Arab official.

A senior adviser to Prince Mo­hammed described the meeting as a “historic turning point in relations,” adding that it had “restored issues to their right path and form a big change in relations between both countries in political, military, security and economic issues.”

US Defence Secretary James Mattis visited Riyadh in April and it was announced by the White House that it would be reviewing the Iran nuclear deal.

As preparations for the US presi­dent’s visit continue, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund was to announce its intent to invest as much as $40 billion in US infrastructure, sources told Bloomberg News, add­ing that the announcement might be made just before or coincide with Trump’s visit.

A White House official confirmed to Bloomberg the plans for the deal, adding that the president’s son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner, had a significant role in the talks.

Besides the kingdom, Trump is to visit Israel and the Vatican be­fore attending NATO and Group of Seven meetings on his first official foreign tour.

Mohammed Alkhereiji is the Arab Weekly’s Gulf section editor.

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