The United States wants to see a strong Saudi Arabia, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during talks Wednesday aimed at reinvigorating the Riyadh-Washington alliance.
Mattis, meeting the most powerful figures in the Saudi capital, also hinted that President Donald Trump could visit the kingdom, a longtime US ally which has welcomed Washington’s firmer line against 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, the defense minister, pointing to the country’s “military security services and secret services.”
Later, however, Mattis gave no indication whether President Donald Trump’s administration was considering an increase in its limited support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.
He said his Riyadh talks “could actually open the door possibly to bringing our president to Saudi Arabia.”
The retired four-star Marine general earlier met King Salman at Al-Yamama Palace in Riyadh, where he told the monarch: “It’s good to be back.”
He arrived in the kingdom on Tuesday afternoon to listen to Saudi leaders and learn “what are their priorities,” an American defense official said.
But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of president Barack Obama.