ENERGY

Adviser: Oil not seen high on agenda of Obama-Salman talks

U.S. President Barack Obama stands alongside Saudi King Salman (R) after arriving on Air Force One at King Khalid International Airport in the capital Riyadh on Jan. 27, 2015. (AFP)

Oil is not expected to be high on the agenda of a meeting on Tuesday between U.S. President Barack Obama and new Saudi King Salman, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters.

Obama, joined by a 30-member delegation of U.S. diplomats, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to pay U.S. respects after the death of King Abdullah.

Rhodes told reporters that Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia is “an opportunity to both pay respect to the legacy of King Abdullah, who was a close partner with the United States and also to touch base on some of the issues where we’re working together with the Saudis.”

Asked if oil would feature, Rhodes told reporters: “Generally speaking, frankly, we have that dialogue with the Saudis in the channels our governments work on energy policy.”

“It only becomes a leader-to-leader conversation usually when there’s a particular crisis point. So energy and oil is certainly part of our relationship and an ongoing dialogue with Saudi Arabia. I wouldn’t expect it to be high on the agenda today.”

Obama’s trip underscores the importance of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, which extends beyond oil interests to regional security. Rhodes told reporters that Obama and King Salman will discuss fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the volatile crisis in Yemen, and the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear problems. Saudi Arabia is a member of the U.S.-led coalition currently fighting ISIS militants.

"We do believe that Saudi policy will remain quite similar to how it's been under King Abdullah," he said, adding Obama wanted to forge the same kind of "close relationship" with Salman as he had with his predecessor.

"They didn't always agree, they were candid in their differences, but they were also were able to do a lot of things together," he said referring to late King Abdullah.

Obama's visit comes as Washington struggles with worsening strife in the Middle East, where it counts Saudi Arabia among its few steady partners in a campaign against ISIS militants who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. security headache worsened last week with the resignation of Yemen's government after clashes in the capital involving Iran-backed rebels -- a setback to U.S. efforts to contain al Qaeda in that country and to limit the regional influence of Shi'ite Muslim Iran.

[With Reuters]

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Last Update: Tuesday, 27 January 2015 KSA 18:47 - GMT 15:47
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Adviser: Oil not seen high on agenda of Obama-Salman talks
Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to pay U.S. respects after the death of King Abdullah
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