‘Opportunity for Saudi to be key interlocutor between US, Pak’

WASHINGTON, Mar 20: The White House today said there is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to be a key interlocutor between the US and Pakistan, as President Donald Trump has expressed dissatisfaction over “bare minimum” actions taken by Islamabad against terror groups.
“As you well know the Saudis have a long deeper relationship with Pakistan. There’s opportunities within that for the partner to provide, be a key interlocutor, if you will, so that there’s no misunderstanding between the US in Pakistan to convey not just messages, but also to identify opportunities for both parties to help them,” a senior administration official said.
The remarks gains significance on the eve of the White House visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for whom the Trump Administration is throwing a red-carpet welcome.
During the meetings, the the Trump Administration plans to discuss the new South Asia policy and seek the Kingdom’s help in Pakistan taking action towards elimination of terrorist safe havens inside its territory.
Breaking the traditional protocol US President Donald Trump will receive the Crown Prince Salman at the White House.
It is slated to have one-o-one meeting at the Oval Office and then host him over a working lunch at the White House. These protocols are normally reserved for the heads of a state of a major country or a top ally and partner of the US.
Major topics on discussion between the two leaders will is the current situation in region, Syria and Yemen, Iran’s behaviour and the Middle East Peace process. They will also discuss bilateral issues, including Saudi investment in America’s infrastructure and defence trade, the senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.
Noting that Saudi Arabia recognises the importance the Trump Administration’s place on South Asian Strategy, the official said that this is one of such initiatives where they offered to assist for example, funding for the Afghan national security forces.
There’s some discussions about, could they host a donor’s conference in Kuwait, have the donor’s conference for reconstruction, which would be economically quite beneficial, mutually beneficial in terms of support for the Afghan government or support in the direction US is trying to go in countering extremism in Saudi Arabia, the official said.
This is a unique opportunity, the official noted.
While countries are saying that this is an American priority, the instability in South Asia has larger implications for the region.
Countries can work with the US to address a common security challenges in a way that can be much more efficient but also more effective, and hopefully bringing these conflicts to a resolution, the official said.
Noting that Saudi Arabia is a key partner and an all-time friend of the US, the official said for Trump, his visit to the Kingdom was certainly one was of the high points of his first year in office.
“Saudi Arabia, security as a priority for the US. Over the past nine months, Congress has approved USD 54 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The department of defence has continued several programmes to build its capacity and capability. We also have close and strong economic relationship with Saudi Arabia,” the official said.
“We continue to engage with our Saudi partners on their plans for civil nuclear program and possibly the United States supply of nuclear equipment expertise and material,” the official said.
“We are expanding our cooperation on countering Arabian influence in the region to terrorists in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere and cutting off funding for terrorists and extremists across the region,” the official said.
“On a regular basis we are engaging directly with senior leadership and we will keep those engagements in the next several weeks on a broad range of issues, increasing our coordination on Middle East regional issues, advancing shared strategic objectives and developing new channels and capabilities by which we can institutionalize each interact and make them more effective,” the official added.
This week, the US, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are launching a trilateral dialogue at the national security advisor level, which will engage monthly on issues of strategic importance, like maligning Iranian activities in the region and implementation of the US South Asia strategy.
“The president’s meeting with the crown prince tomorrow, there is a tremendous opportunity to make progress on a range of issues and strengthened these bilateral relations,” the official said.
Trump and the Crown Prince among other things will discuss countering extremism, Russia’s role in supporting the Assad regime’s atrocities in Syria, the official said. (PTI)