Friday Apr 28, 2017
President Donald Trump complained on Thursday that US ally Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump confirmed his administration was in talks about possible visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel in the second half of May. He is due to make his first trip abroad as president for a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels and could add other stops.
"Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Trump’s criticism of Riyadh was a return to his 2016 election campaign rhetoric when he accused the kingdom of not pulling its weight in paying for the US security umbrella.
"Nobody’s going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we’re watching them," Trump told a campaign rally in Wisconsin a year ago. “They’re not paying us a fair price. We’re losing our shirt.”
The United States is the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighters to control and command systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years, while American contractors win major energy deals.
The world's top oil exporter and its biggest consumer have enjoyed close economic ties for decades, with US firms building much of the infrastructure of the modern Saudi state after its oil boom in the 1970s.
Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Trump's latest comments.
But Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir rejected similar comments from Trump during his election campaign, telling CNN during a visit to Washington last July that the Islamic kingdom "carries its own weight" as an ally.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Trump last month in a meeting that was hailed by a senior Saudi adviser as a “historical turning point” in relations. The talks appeared to signal a meeting of minds on many issues, including their shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat.
Asked about the fight against Daesh, which Saudi Arabia and other US allies are confronting as a coalition, Trump said the militant group had to be defeated.
"I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation," Trump said, when asked about what the endgame was for defeating violent extremism.
"There is an end. Otherwise it's really tough. But there is an end," without detailing a strategy.