White House: What Saudi snub?

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The White House on Monday downplayed the appearance of a rift with Saudi Arabia, after the country’s king pulled out of a summit with President Obama and leaders of Persian Gulf nations.

“There has been some speculation that this change in travel plans was an attempt to send a message to the United States,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. “If so, that message was not received because all the feedback we have received from the Saudis has been positive.”

{mosads}King Salman of Saudi Arabia originally accepted an invitation to meet with Obama at the White House this week and attend a summit at Camp David on Thursday with other Gulf Cooperation Council nations.

But, amid Saudi concerns about the United States’ overtures toward Iran, Saudi Arabia announced it would instead send Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defense minister.

Salman had previously confirmed his attendance, Earnest said, but his sudden absence is “unrelated to the agenda that is planned for Camp David.”

Obama and Salman spoke by phone Monday, the White House said.

Salmon called to “express his regret” for missing the summit and the two leaders “agreed on the necessity of working closely” to deepen security ties, the White House said in a statement.

Four of the six monarchs from the states invited to Camp David will not attend the summit, with lower-ranking officials participating instead. That raised concerns the gathering would do little to reassure allies in the Persian Gulf, as the U.S. attempts to finish nuclear deal with Iran.   

Earnest expressed confidence that the Saudis and other nations would be would be “ably represented” at the summit.

“We agree that the right people will be attending,” he said.

The Saudi government cited a five-day cease-fire in Yemen, where it is fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, and the opening of the King Salman Center for Humanitarian Aid for the leader’s decision not to travel to the U.S.

Officials from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will attend the summit.

This story was last updated at 7:17 p.m.


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