Saudi king greets Obama with roses and candy on tense visit
President Obama met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh on Wednesday amid increasingly strained relations between the two countries over the US outreach to Iran, approach to Syria and potential release of documents that could implicate Saudi officials in the 9/11 attacks.
Underscoring the growing tensions, Obama was greeted at King Khalid International Airport not by the monarch, but by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the governor of Riyadh.
Saudi state media did not broadcast Obama’s arrival for his fourth trip to the country as it did during his visit last year to pay respects after the death of Salman’s predecessor, King Abdullah.
Salman later greeted Obama at the Erga Palace, where they traded polite smiles at the start of their private meeting a day before a summit of Gulf leaders.
“The American people send their greetings and we are very grateful for your hospitality, not just for this meeting but for hosting the GCC-US summit that’s taking place tomorrow,” Obama said, referring to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council summit that starts Thursday.
Salman offered similarly gracious words for the president, who planned to spend little more than 24 hours in the Saudi capital before heading on to visits to London and Hannover, Germany.
“The feeling is mutual between us and the American people,” the 80-year-old king said through a translator.
The Persian Gulf summit – which includes the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain – was planned to address regional stability, Iran and the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda.
The six countries — which are ruled mostly by Sunni Muslim monarchies, with the exception of Oman — see Shi’ite Iran as a security threat and say its involvement in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen has deepened sectarian divisions.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei took to social media on Wednesday to attack Riyadh’s attempts to isolate its ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, Reuters reported.
“Hezbollah is shining in the Muslim world. It doesn’t matter if a corrupt, dependent and hollow government with the use of petrodollars condemns it in a statement. To hell with it,” he tweeted.
Obama will be joined at Thursday’s summit by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Talks also were expected to address the Saudi-led military campaign against Shiite rebels and their allies in neighboring Yemen.
NEW YORK POST