US President Donald Trump has met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his first official get-together with a Middle Eastern dignitary since taking office. Trump received King Salman’s son, also the kingdom's defense minister, on Tuesday in the White House where they took part in a photo session but refrained from answering any questions about their meeting.
US Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and strategist Steve Bannon were also present at the meeting.
The US president’s assistant for economic affairs, Dina Habib Powell, also took part in the talks.
US President Donald Trump (center left) and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman (center right) take their seats for lunch in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Following the meeting a senior adviser to the deputy crown prince said that it had marked a "historical turning point" in US-Saudi relations.
"The meeting today restored issues to their right path and form a big change in relations between both countries in political, military, security and economic issues," he added in a statement.
After the Oval Office meeting, Trump and the prince were joined by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and State Minister Musaed al-Aiban for lunch in the State Dining Room of the White House.
Saudis backed Trump's rival, Clinton
Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (right) with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Trump, who told the visiting Saudi prince on Tuesday that it was nice meeting him, had repeatedly questioned the protective nature of the US relationship with Saudi Arabia in the run-up to the November 8 presidential election. He suggested that the US should consider ditching Riyadh because Washington was increasingly lessening its dependence on overseas oil.
The Saudi royal family, which was expecting Trump’s rival, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to win the White House, heavily invested in her campaign.
Prince Mohammed reportedly said last year that Riyadh had funded as much as 20 percent of Clinton’s presidential campaign. In addition, Saudi Arabia had also been one of the Clinton Foundation’s biggest donors. It became known in 2008 that the kingdom had given them between $10 million and $25 million.
However, following Trump’s stunning victory in the November election, the Saudi royal family jumped on the new president’s bandwagon.
Days after Trump’s inauguration as the 45th US president on January 20, Saudi energy minister announced the billionaire’s election will be good for the oil industry.
Khalid al-Falih, a former head of Saudi’s state oil company Aramco, told BBC that the Trump administration was adopting policies “which are good for the oil industry” while steering “away from excessively anti-fossil fuel, unrealistic policies by some well intentioned environmental proponents.”