President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia in March to meet with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to discuss ties between the two countries.
The stop will be added onto a trip during which the president is scheduled to visit the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.
Though the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been allies for decades, tensions have arisen recently over the U.S.’s limited involvement in the Syrian civil war and negotiations with Iran to curb the country’s nuclear program.
“Saudi Arabia‘s a close partner of the United States and we have a bilateral relationship that is broad and deep and covers a range of areas,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said when asked if the trip was set up to help mitigate the tensions. “Whatever differences we may have do not alter the fact that this is a very important and close partnership.” He said the president will discuss a range of issues while there.
Mr. Obama last visited Saudi Arabia in June 2009, when he also met with King Abdullah. He was on a wide-ranging trip to the Middle East where he delivered a speech in Cairo calling for a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims.” Since then, the region has largely fallen into chaos as a result of the Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria and ongoing violence in Iraq.