Trump Meets With Saudi Defense Minister

YERUSHALAYIM -
President Donald Trump (L) meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

The White House’s first major foray into Mideast peacemaking continued on Wednesday, as President Donald Trump met with the Saudi defense minister.

The word from Washington was notably upbeat. Besides the usual pledges to strengthen bilateral ties, the President and the Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, noted the importance of “confronting Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” while continuing to evaluate and strictly enforce the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The President expressed his “strong desire to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to continue the two countries’ consultations to help reach solutions for regional issues,” the White House said in a statement.

The Saudi prince, for his part, hailed the meeting as “a historic turning point” in bilateral relations, indicating no doubt that the Saudis prefer Trump to Obama.

“Relations had undergone a period of difference of opinion,” a senior adviser to the crown prince said in a statement after Tuesday’s meeting. “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.”

There was no indication, however, whether President Trump made any headway in persuading the Saudis to join in brokering renewed peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, as some observers have said the administration has been hoping to do. Specifically, the U.S. administration is weighing the prospect of a regional summit in Cairo or Amman, and would like to see Ryadh involved as well before risking political capital on such a venture.