Washington, Riyadh agree to arms deals worth almost $110 billion
BANDAR AL-JALOUD (Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)
Washington has agreed arms deals with Saudi Arabia worth almost $110 billion, a White House official said Saturday, the first day of President Donald Trump's visit to the traditional US ally.
"This package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats," the official said.
It will also bolster the kingdom's "ability to contribute to counter-terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the US military to conduct those operations," the official added.
Trump said in his first remarks of the day: "That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.
"Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs," he said.
A preliminary deal worth $6 billion to assemble 150 Lockheed Martin Blackhawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia was separately announced at the Saudi-US CEO Forum held in Riyadh during Trump's visit.
The program to "support the final assembly and completion of an estimated 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters" will support around 450 jobs in the kingdom, said a forum statement.
US defense contractors are major suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which for more than two years has led a coalition conducting air strikes and other operations against rebels in Yemen.
The new deals come despite mounting pressure on Washington from rights groups to stop arms sales to Riyadh, which has come under repeated criticism over civilian casualties in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday announced the creation of a new military industries firm as part of the kingdom's efforts to boost defense production.
The kingdom's Public Investment Fund said the new government-owned company, Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), "aims to become one of the world's top 25 defense companies by 2030."
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in an April report that Saudi Arabia last year was the world's fourth-largest military spender, spending $63.7 billion.
A Reuters report earlier this month said the deals would include Americans arms and maintenance, ships, air missile defense, and maritime security, according to the report.
An earlier Reuters report cited sources saying the arms package (which includes both new contracts and some which were already in the pipeline) includes Lockheed Martin's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) advanced missile defense system and several batteries, as well as battle command, control and communications software and a package of satellite capabilities.
(Staff with AFP)
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