Trump lauds Saudi Arabia as 'the great purchaser of our weapons'

Saudi Cinema Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman

U.S. President Donald Trump gave a warm welcome to Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday and credited U.S. defense sales to the Saudis with boosting American jobs, even as Riyadh's involvement in Yemen's civil war faced criticism.

The White House says it plans to press Salman to quickly resolve the ongoing Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, which has pit the two US allies against each other since last June.

"A lot of people are at work" because of Saudi Arabia's business, Trump said, adding that the kingdom has finalized $12.5 billion in purchases of planes, missiles and frigates from United States companies.

Prince Mohammed is starting a three-week trip across the United States, his first visit since being designated the successor for his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Senior US officials say Trump wants to settle the dispute, although Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has called the issue a "very small matter".

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, opened a marathon tour of the United States with a stop in Washington.

Iran's influence in the Middle East is one topic that was discussed.

"We're going to see what happens", Trump said.

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The Saudi Crown Prince was also due to attend a working dinner to discuss the Middle East peace process with Mr Kushner, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, and Gulf coordinator at the White House Michael Bell.

He gave CBS's 60 Minutes an interview, which aired on Sunday, doing his best to come off as a progressive leader, and Saudi officials have been doing the rounds with US media to emphasize Saudi Arabia's disdain for Iran, its chief rival in the region.

Prince Mohammed capped his rapid rise to power last June by replacing his elder cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who had close relationships with US intelligence and defense circles, as crown prince.

Since 2015 under president Barack Obama, the Pentagon has provided "non-combat support" to Saudi Arabia, including intelligence sharing and air-to-air refueling for its war planes.

According to media reports, both leaders stressed the strength and potential of Saudi-US ties before sitting down for talks with their officials where the President remarked on the improved relations with Saudi Arabia forged under his administration. Yemen is the latest such example where USA forces provide logistical and intelligence support to a Saudi-led coalition of largely Gulf nations fighting to oust Houthi rebels from what was already the Arab world's poorest nation before the conflict began. In June, it will be legal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. "We were victims, especially my generation that suffered from this a great deal". The crown prince is trying to attract investment and good publicity for the kingdom. "We also have close and strong economic relationship with Saudi Arabia", the official said. Saudi concerns with NY include a post-9/11 law that could jeopardize assets in the United States if victims' families claim Saudi Arabia helped the al-Qaida attackers and sue for compensation.

"But Iran has not been treating that part of the world or the world itself appropriately".

As Prince Mohammed arrived in Washington, word trickled out that Saudi Aramco - the kingdom's energy behemoth - was cooling on the idea of a stock listing in NY, something Trump has publicly lobbied for.

"Tell that to the people of Yemen, whose homes and lives are being destroyed by weapons marked 'Made in the United States of America, ' dropped by planes being refuelled by the U.S. military, on targets chosen with US assistance", Sanders said Tuesday.

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