Antony Blinken lands in Saudi Arabia to discuss security and trade co-operation

US Secretary of State's trip marks the second high-level visit by an American official to the kingdom in a month

US secretary of State Antony Blinken lands in Saudi Arabia

US secretary of State Antony Blinken lands in Saudi Arabia
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a two-day visit to the kingdom.

Mr Blinken is expected to meet senior Saudi officials and possibly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his time in Riyadh and the coastal city of Jeddah.

The trip is the second high-level visit by an American official to the kingdom in a month.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan travelled to Saudi Arabia on May 7.

Mr Blinken is expected to attend the US-Saudi strategic dialogue and a Gulf Co-operation Council meeting to enhance relations between the two sides.

He will participate in a US-GCC ministerial meeting to “discuss the growing co-operation of the Gulf and to promote security, stability, de-escalation, regional integration, and economic opportunities across the Middle East”, the US State Department has said.

The officials are set to discuss US-Saudi co-operation on a regional and global level. Bilateral issues such as economic and security co-operation will also feature high on the agenda, it said.

On Thursday, he will co-host the meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

The main aim of the meeting will be to “promote security, stability, de-escalation, regional integration and economic opportunities across the Middle East”, the State Department said.

Mr Blinken is planning a trip to China, which helped broker a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March, Reuters reported, citing a US official.

Resolving regional conflicts

The Secretary of State's agenda will also include efforts to resolve the war in Yemen between the Saudi-backed government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Riyadh is attempting to mend ties with Iran and to potentially step back from Yemen.

“Saudi Arabia has supported UN-led peace efforts in Yemen that have enabled over a year of de-escalation and created the best opportunity for peace since the war began,” the State Department said on Tuesday.

Mr Blinken's visit comes as Riyadh and Washington have been involved in efforts to broker a durable truce between Sudan's warring generals in talks in Jeddah.

But the US and Saudi Arabia suspended efforts last week after the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces repeatedly breached the ceasefire.

“Our two countries are working together to end the conflict in Sudan, including in negotiating the Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan and enabling humanitarian assistance,” the State Department said.

On Sunday, the US and Saudi Arabia called on the two parties to resume talks in Jeddah.

The joint statement said the warring generals must adhere to a declaration dated May 11 in which they pledged to protect civilians and allow the safe passage of humanitarian aid.

“We would like to emphasise the adherence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America to their commitment to the Sudanese people,” it said. “We also call on the two sides to agree to a new ceasefire that they fully implement.”

On defence, Washington said it was Saudi Arabia's top supplier “with cases valued at more than $140 billion”.

“This partnership is predicated on our shared interest in security in the Gulf and deterring any foreign or regional power from threatening the region,” said the State Department.

The US will also advance its security partnership with Saudi Arabia by “countering the proliferation of unmanned aerial systems and missiles to non-state actors that threaten the peace and security of the region,” in an apparent reference to the Houthis which have launched several cross border attacks into Saudi Arabia in recent years.

The US praised Saudi Arabia's aid efforts in Ukraine as well as its support for UN resolutions that call for Russia to end its invasion of the country.

The statement also praised Saudi Arabia's opening of airspace to civilian aircraft from all countries “including Israel”.

Last year, two-way trade between Saudi Arabia and the US reached over $35 billion.

A statement from the US embassy in Riyadh said in February. “We are steadfastly committed to expanding the existing ties between our two countries while establishing the ties that will carry the relationship forward and into the future.”

Updated: June 06, 2023, 7:56 PM