US President Barack Obama will meet Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh next week to seek his support over the nuclear standoff with Iran and reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
President Obama will visit Riyadh on June 3 in a surprise addition to his scheduled three-day trip to Egypt, Germany and France, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is a staunch US ally in the region and potentially a key player in the drive for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which President Obama has declared a top foreign policy priority.
The Obama administration has embraced the 2002 Arab peace initiative, a proposal authored by Saudi Arabia that offered Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.
Mr Gibbs dismissed the idea the Saudi stop was added to persuade Arab states to make conciliatory gestures to Israel.
“The president believes it’s an important opportunity to discuss important business, like Middle East peace, but it’s not born out of anything specific,” he said.
Mr Gibbs last week scotched speculation that President Obama would use his much-anticipated speech to Muslims, which he is due to deliver in Egypt on June 4, to unveil a new Middle East peace initiative.
President Obama has held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks.