‘Reset’ in Saudi-US ties predicted as Trump meets deputy crown prince

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Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington. (AN photos)
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Updated 24 March 2017
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‘Reset’ in Saudi-US ties predicted as Trump meets deputy crown prince

WASHINGTON: Saudi-US relations were firmly in the spotlight Tuesday as President Donald Trump hosted Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House for their first official meeting.
The meeting was dubbed a “reset moment” in US-Saudi relations after eight years clouded with differences under the Obama administration over its handling of the Arab Spring, the Iran nuclear deal, arms sales and the war in Syria.
This potential reset is, however, seen as more “transactional” by some, as the Trump administration attempts to engage different stakeholders in the region.

Focus on Yemen

Trump’s working lunch with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s second deputy premier and defense minister, was in the “Old Family Dining Room” on the State Floor of the White House.
The meeting marks the first official visit to the White House by any Arab leader since Trump took office in January.
Vice President Mike Pence, chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus were seen in photos in the Oval Office prior to the lunch, according to the White House press pool.
US sources with knowledge of the visit told Arab News that “Yemen is a primary focus” for the meetings, in gauging the Trump administration’s views and ideas for finding a settlement to the war.
Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News that the Saudi prince’s trip “is broad-ranging, crossing many issues and sectors” and that it sets “the next stage of the US-Saudi strategic relationship.”
Karasik noted, however, the different atmosphere and policy approaches that will face Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on this White House meeting, as compared to those under Obama.
“The Trump approach is different from that under the Obama administration, it is more aggressive and rooted in transactional foreign policy,” Karasik said. He defined the Trump style as “pushing and pulling at the stakeholders to come to some type of solution,” something that comes “with higher risk but greater payoff.”
Higher expectations are being set for US-Saudi relations under Trump, other analysts said.
Andrew Bowen, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told Arab News that the deputy crown prince’s visit to Washington marks “an opportunity to reset the relationship and put it on better footing after a rough period of relations between President Obama and Riyadh.”
Bowen anticipated a generally better road ahead for US-Saudi relations under Trump, as compared to Obama.
“Trump means business and a deal can certainly be worked out between Washington and Riyadh. Will the Saudis get everything they want? No. Will the relationship fall below their expectations? Probably,” he said.

"A historic turning point"

For his part, a senior adviser to the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed gave a statement praising the outcome of the meeting with President Trump, dubbing it a "historic turning point" according to Bloomberg.
"Relations had undergone a period of difference of opinion. However, today’s meeting has put things on the right track, and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields," the advisor said.  
The issue of banning some citizens from six countries from entering the United States of America was discussed and the Saudi position on the front was that Riyadh "does not believe that this measure is targeting Muslim countries or the religion of Islam."
"This measure is a sovereign decision aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the United States of America. President Trump expressed his deep respect for the Religion of Islam, considering it one of the divine religions that came with great human principles kidnapped by radical groups," added the source.
Many of the economic files between the two countries have been discussed. They included huge Saudi investments in the United States of America in addition to exceptionally and largely providing American companies with the opportunities to enter the Saudi market.
On the Iran nuclear deal front, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stressed how bad and very dangerous the nuclear deal is on the region and that it is going to hold the
Iranian radical regime back for a short period of time in their quest for producing a nuclear weapon.
Bloomberg quoted the Saudi senior advisor as saying that "President Trump and the Deputy Crown Prince share the same views on the gravity of the Iranian expansionist moves in the region. Iran is trying to gain its legitimacy in the Islamic world by supporting terrorist organizations with the aim of reaching Mecca, the Qibla of all Muslims, which gives them the legitimacy they lack in the Islamic world."
"Iran’s support of terrorist organization such as Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, ISIS and others along with its obstructing of any deal to settle the Palestinian issue, as a form of exporting its issues abroad, are nothing but another attempt to the gain the legitimacy it lacks among Muslims."
Concerning terrorism in the region, both parties agreed that recruitment campaigns carried out by some terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia against Saudi citizens are launched to legitimize these groups. Since the Kingdom is seen as a leading country in the Islamic World, Seat of the Revelation, Land Two Holy Mosques, and the Qibla of all Muslims, which represent an unparalleled legitimacy. In addition to attempting to harm the Saudi strategic relations with the US in particular, and the rest of the world in general.
Prince Mohammed Bin Salman expressed, after the meeting, his satisfaction with the positive attitude and clarifications he heard from President Trump about his stance on Islam, which runs against what the media promoted about the President, stressing that his Excellency President Trump has an unprecedented and serious intention to work with the Muslim World and to achieve its interests and that Prince Mohammed considers his Excellency as a true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim World in an unimaginable manner, opposite to the negative portrait of his Excellency that some have tried to promote whether through publishing unjust statements that are taken out of their context or by means of unrealistic media commentaries and analyses about his Excellency.


Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

Austria's Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl addresses the media before a two-day cabinet meeting in Seggau, Austria, in this January 5, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

  • The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine
  • Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening

VIENNA: The expected attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin at Saturday’s wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl sparked a row Friday over whether the visit was appropriate.
“How is Austria’s presidency of the EU meant to live up to the government’s own claims of building bridges (between the EU and Russia) and being an honest broker, when Austria’s foreign minister and chancellor are so obviously on one side?” asked MP Andreas Schieder of the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe).
SPOe MEP Evelyn Regner said the invite sent a “shameful” image of Austria to its EU partners, branding it “a provocation of European proportions.”
The Greens called for Kneissl’s resignation, pointing out that “Vladimir Putin is the EU’s most aggressive enemy in matters of foreign policy.”
Kneissl, 53, who was nominated for the post by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), will marry businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in a ceremony in a wine-growing village near the southeastern city of Graz.
Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening.
Putin’s attendance was originally described as a “private event” by Kneissl’s office but has since been upgraded to a “working visit.”
Several hundred police officers will take part in the security operation around the wedding.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and FPOe Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache are also expected at the ceremony.
In 2016, the FPOe signed a “cooperation pact” with Putin’s United Russia party.
The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The foreign ministry has insisted that Putin’s visit “will not change anything in terms of Austria’s foreign policy positions.”
The invitation has even provoked some criticism from within Kurz’s own OeVP party, with one of its MEPs Othmar Karas saying: “I can’t grasp the logic and the purpose of making such a personal occasion political and open to misuse in this way.”
Russia has been accused of seeking to weaken and divide the EU, notably by maintaining links with populist parties in several European countries.
Kurz’s OeVP and the FPOe have been in coalition together since December after an election campaign in which both parties ran on anti-immigration platforms.