Antony Blinken to visit Saudi Arabia for GCC meeting and anti-ISIS talks

Next week's trip comes as US and Saudi officials work to broker Sudan truce

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will 'discuss US-Saudi strategic co-operation on regional and global issues' during his visit, the State Department said. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia next week in an effort to bolster US-Saudi strategic co-operation, the State Department said on Friday.

The June 6-8 trip comes as both the US and Saudi Arabia are seeking to broker a durable ceasefire between Sudan's warring generals.

Mr Blinken will “discuss US-Saudi strategic co-operation on regional and global issues and a range of bilateral issues including economic and security co-operation”, the State Department said.

He will participate in a ministerial meeting on Wednesday with the Gulf Co-operation Council, and on Thursday will meet representatives from partner nations fighting ISIS in Riyadh.

The goal of the GCC meeting will be to “promote security, stability, de-escalation, regional integration and economic opportunities across the Middle East”, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a release.

US-Saudi relations have been strained under the Biden administration, with regional analysts questioning Washington's commitment to the region.

“We have all maintained that it's an important strategic partnership and it has been for 80 years,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

“It doesn't mean we always agree with the Saudis on everything, or that they agree with us on everything.

“We've certainly had differences of opinion. And that's not to say that there won't be some in the future. It's an important strategic partnership.”

Mr Kirby added that the bulk of Mr Blinken's message while in Riyadh would be on “moving this relationship forward”.

The trip comes after the two countries, which have taken the lead in peace talks between Sudan’s warring military factions, suspended their efforts this week.

“Once the forces make clear by their actions that they are serious about complying with the ceasefire, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are prepared to resume facilitation of the suspended discussions to find a negotiated solution to this conflict,” the US State Department said.

Mr Blinken's trip is also likely to focus on convincing Saudi Arabia to formally recognise Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, which would be a major prize for the US.

Riyadh has resisted so far, holding to its demand that Israel recognise an independent Palestinian state and that Washington provide security guarantees.

Updated: June 02, 2023, 6:02 PM