‘It is in our interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia’

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King Salman receives US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Riyadh Wednesday. (SPA)
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Houthi fighters ride on the back of a patrol truck Yemen's capital Sanaa on Wednesday. US Defense Secretary jim Mattis on Wednesday warned of Iranian efforts to create a Yemeni militia “in the image” of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
Updated 20 April 2017
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‘It is in our interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia’

RIYADH: The US wants to see a strong Saudi Arabia, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during talks with King Salman on Wednesday, aimed at reinvigorating the Riyadh-Washington alliance. 

Mattis said Iran was playing a destabilizing role in the region but its influence would be overcome to try to reach a solution to the conflict in Yemen through UN-brokered negotiations.

“Everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters in Riyadh after meeting senior Saudi officials. “We will have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah, but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it,” Mattis added. 

Mattis also hinted that President Donald Trump could visit the Kingdom, a longtime US ally which has welcomed Washington’s firmer line against the common adversary Iran. “It is in our interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia,” Mattis said at the start of talks with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pointing to the country’s “military security services and secret services.”

“What we can do here today could actually open the door possibly to bringing our president to Saudi Arabia,” Mattis said.

The two sides pledged to work closely to broaden security cooperation and to ramp up support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.

Mattis’ talks with the king at Al-Yamamah Palace focused on “efforts to strengthen US-Saudi partnership,” said Johann Schmonsees, a spokesman of the US Embassy. 

Mattis discussed with the king and the deputy crown prince efforts to strengthen commitments to the US-Saudi security partnership, Schmonsees said.

Saud Al-Awadh, a political analyst, said: “The trip of the US defense secretary marks the first visit of the Pentagon chief to the Kingdom. It has added significance keeping in view the American counterterrorism operations and airstrikes in Yemen, where US forces are also providing moderate intelligence support to the Saudi-led forces.”

Mattis will also visit Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Djibouti. The Pentagon has billed the trip, Mattis’ fourth as defense secretary and second to the Middle East region, as an opportunity for him to discuss the ongoing fight against terrorism throughout the region. 

Mattis traveled to Egypt Thursday after wrapping up his two-day trip to the Kingdom. He will visit Israel Friday before returning to the Gulf Saturday for talks in Qatar. The trip is primarily aimed at boosting the alliance between the US and these five countries, which are important players in the region.


King Salman to inaugurate Saudi Arabia’s Haramain high-speed railway

Updated 4 min 13 sec ago
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King Salman to inaugurate Saudi Arabia’s Haramain high-speed railway

  • The 450 kilometer train line connects the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with stations at Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City
  • This giant project has been implemented in three stages by a number of national and international companies

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will inaugurate the Haramain high speed rail project on Tuesday ahead of the start of commercial operations next month.
The 450 kilometer train line connects the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with stations at Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City.
Saudi Minister of Transport, Dr. Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi, expressed his gratitude to the King for his patronage of the ceremony as well as his support for national projects.
Al-Amoudi said King Salman gives great importance to the transportation projects in Saudi Arabia as they represent the Kingdom’s efforts in serving citizens and visitors, specifically pilgrims.
He also said the King and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman are always committed to provide the highest quality services to pilgrims, to fulfill Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which aims to increase the number of pilgrims.
This giant project has been implemented in three stages by a number of national and international companies.
The project can carry 60 million passengers a year with a fleet of 35 trains containing 417 seats each.
Dr. Rumaih bin Mohammed Al-Rumaih, chairman of the Public Transport Authority, said the project is the region’s first high-speed electric train.
The designs of the stations of the Haramain rail were inspired by the unique Islamic architecture of the cities of Makkah and Madinah.