Analysis: White House meeting on Saudi underscores Kingdom’s influence

US President Donald Trump talks to Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Updated 18 March 2017
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Analysis: White House meeting on Saudi underscores Kingdom’s influence

WASHINGTON: The White House indicated Wednesday that Saudi Arabia will remain a close consultant to President Donald Trump on security and economic challenges in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iran nuclear deal.
The White House statement offered a glimpse at how this nascent administration’s Middle East policies are taking shape, and how influential Saudi Arabia may be in shaping them. It left little doubt of the president’s commitment to reinforcing relations with Saudi Arabia in a lengthy readout Wednesday — a day after the visit.
Trump’s rhetoric toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict has notably softened since he was sworn into office. Trump abandoned, at least for now, his vow to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a plan long in the works but never executed due to the potential security implications.
Trump has also urged Israel to stop settlement expansions in disputed territories and said that the Israelis and Palestinians should determine for themselves whether a one- or two-state solution may work best.
Saudi Arabia has long said that any normalization of relations with Israel must include a just resolution first to Palestinian statehood, including claims to east Jerusalem.
More broadly, the statement also addresses the need for collaboration in the fight against the Islamic State militant group — the White House referring to the group as “Daesh,” its Arabic acronym, for the first time. The Trump administration typically refers to the group by its English acronym, ISIS.
The White House emphasized the need to normalize relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, which had soured in recent years over Saudi objections to the Iran nuclear deal, reached by the Obama administration.
Saudi Arabia has welcomed Trump’s hard line rhetoric on Iran, but the White House statement Wednesday notes “the importance of confronting Iran’s destabilizing regional activities while continuing to evaluate and strictly enforce the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” indicating that the agreement may not be dismantled, as Trump had promised during the campaign.
The statement emphasized the need to strengthen economic and commercial ties as well. The two sides discussed the creation of a new US-Saudi program, undertaken by joint US-Saudi working groups, which would embark on initiatives in the energy, industry, infrastructure and technology sectors, with opportunities worth more than $200 billion, the statement said.

 

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Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

Updated 8 min 51 sec ago
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Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

  • The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia
  • The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease

GENEVA: Outbreaks of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) killed 23 people in Saudi Arabia between Jan. 21 and May 31 this year, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
The deaths were among 75 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) during the period, the WHO said, and take the total number of deaths from the disease to 790 since it was first diagnosed in humans in 2012.
The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia.
One outbreak in February hit a private hospital in Hafer Albatin region, where the patient passed the disease to three health workers. There was another cluster of six cases in a hospital in Riyadh in the same month, although no health care workers were infected.
Two other clusters affected households in Jeddah and Najran.
MERS-CoV is a member of a virus family ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It appears to have emerged in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although it has been traced in camels, the source of the infection, back to at least 1983.
The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease.
But it kills one in three sufferers, and hospital workers are at risk unless extreme caution is taken to identify MERS sufferers early and to protect health care workers from infection via airborne droplets such as from coughs and sneezes.
Susceptible people should avoid contact with suspected cases and with camels, and anyone who has contact with animals should wash their hands before and afterwards, the WHO said. Everyone should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating undercooked meat.
Three MERS cases have been reported this year outside Saudi Arabia. Oman and the United Arab Emirates each reported a case, while in Malaysia a man fell ill after drinking unpasteurised camel milk during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.