Saudi deputy crown prince yet to meet Obama

White House keeps Prince Mohamed bin Salman in suspense on Washington visit

Saudi deputy crown prince Mohamed bin Salman (left) began his US tour with an iftar  at the home of John Kerry. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi deputy crown prince Mohamed bin Salman (left) began his US tour with an iftar at the home of John Kerry. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Saudi deputy crown prince’s week-long visit to Washington did not unfold quite as Riyadh planned.

Prince Mohamed bin Salman began his US tour with an iftar (Ramadan dusk meal) at the home of US secretary of state John Kerry. The prince later held talks with US defence secretary Ashton Carter, as well as senior officials and prominent congressmen and congresswomen.

Although Riyadh had touted a closed meeting with US president Barack Obama, the White House has kept the prince in suspense, citing scheduling problems.

Yesterday Mr Obama travelled to Florida to sympathise with relatives of the 49 people slain by a gunman who claimed allegiance to Islamic State, an adherent of Saudi Arabia’s puritan ideology.

Foreign Policy magazine reported that Gulf experts suggest the White House postponed fixing a meeting for the prince with Mr Obama due to US displeasure over Saudi support for jihadi groups fighting in Syria and Iraq as well as Riyadh’s brutal war in Yemen.

Relations between Riyadh and Washington have soured, particularly since prince Mohamed (30) has become a major power in the kingdom.

The US is peeved over the acquisition by Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra of US-manufactured anti- tank and shoulder-fired anti- aircraft missiles, as well as Bulgarian arms and munitions, which were sold to Saudi Arabia, as well as Saudi use of US-made cluster bombs in Yemen.

Undue pressure

Last week the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, castigated Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies for exerting “undue pressure” on the UN to remove them from a list of violators of children’s rights during conflict.

The list cited a UN report holding them responsible for killing 60 per cent of the 2,000 child fatalities in the Yemen war and for attacks on half the country’s schools and hospitals.

Gulf states threatened to cease funding UN operations, Mr Ban said, publicly exposing blackmail and embarrassing the US, which has provided Saudi Arabia with airborne fuel tankers, advanced munitions and intelligence during the Yemen war.