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Pompeo Discusses ‘Strategic Partnership’ during Riyadh Visit

Pompeo Discusses ‘Strategic Partnership’ during Riyadh Visit

Monday, 14 January, 2019 - 06:45
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is received in Riyadh by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir. (SPA)
Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh on Sunday as part of his ongoing tour of the Middle East.

He was received at the airport by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman and US Charge D’Affaires Christopher Henzel.

Talks between the US and Saudi officials focused on their “strategic partnership”, as well as regional affairs.

Prior to his arrival in the Kingdom, Pompeo was in Qatar where he discussed with officials improving the combating of terrorism financing, reported the German news agency dpa.

Pompeo said he signed a memorandum of understanding with Doha regarding the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts the forward headquarters of the US military's Central Command and some 10,000 American troops.

The Gulf rift with Doha was also at the top of Pompeop’s agenda.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt had in June 2017 announced a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar over its support and financing of terrorism.

During a press conference with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Pompeo stressed the importance of unity between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

He added that last week’s resignation of Anthony Zinni, the retired US Marine general, who served as envoy to resolve the dispute between the four boycotting countries and Qatar, will not impact Washington’s policy towards ending the rift.

"The departure of Mr. Zinni in no way reflects any change in America's Middle East efforts, our strategy or our ongoing commitment to the region," Pompeo said. "It was a time for change. He made this decision to move on, but America's commitment remains unchanged."

“When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful,” said Pompeo of the Gulf dispute according to Reuters.

He added that Gulf unity was essential for a planned Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) that would also include Jordan and Egypt.

On his trip to Saudi Arabia, he said that he will discuss with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, efforts to hold accountable suspects behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October.

He is expected to meet the Crown Prince on Monday.

Pompeo kicked off his tour of the Middle East last week. He has so far visited Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Iraq. He is also scheduled to head to Kuwait and Oman.

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