Obama, Abdullah seek to soothe relations

 

President Obama on Friday met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in an effort to "reaffirm the importance of the relationship" with the nation amid disagreements on Syria and Iran. 

As Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia from Italy early in the day, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that the two hour meeting provided the leaders an opportunity to chat about their differences on Syria and Iran, as well as issues pertaining to Middle East peace, and "other regional developments."

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Ahead of the meeting, Rhodes said the main focal point of the conversation would center on Syria, although Obama was not expected to make any announcements about additional assistance to the nation. 

Still, Rhodes said the relationship with Saudi Arabia was in good standing and that "we've made good progress," about coordinating "who we're providing assistance to and what types of assistance we're providing."

The national security adviser maintained that the U.S. together with Saudi Arabia — who wanted a U.S. military strike at one point in time — is "in a stronger place today than it was in the fall, when we had some tactical differences about our Syria policy." 

On Iran, Rhodes said Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will make clear that, even as it pursues a nuclear deal, concerns about Iran's behavior in the region "remain constant."

The trip to Saudi Arabia comes on the tail end of a weeklong trip overseas for Obama, who also visited Belgium and Italy.