Mattis to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel in Mideast trip next week

US Defence Minister James Mattis reaffirmed Washington's commitment to NATO during a meeting in Brussels, on February 15, 2017
EMMANUEL DUNAND (AFP)
Pentagon says regional tour will reaffirm military alliances and discuss how to defeat extremist terrorism

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is on Tuesday to begin a trip to the Mideast and Africa that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Djibouti, the Defense Department announced on Friday.

Mattis's trip is meant to "reaffirm key US military alliances, to engage with strategic partners in the Middle East and Africa, and to discuss cooperative efforts to counter destabilizing activities and defeat extremist terror organizations," according to a Pentagon statement.

Mattis is set to kick off his tour in Saudi Arabia, where he is scheduled to hold meetings to bolster the US-Saudi security partnership.

He then proceeds to Egypt to discuss regional security and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony in the country's Unknown Soldier Memorial.

On April 20, Mattis is due to arrive in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and President Reuven Rivlin. He is also scheduled to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Mattis met Liberman in March when the latter visited Washington.

Mattis's trip then takes him to Qatar, where he is to "meet with key international leadership and continue efforts to strengthen regional security architectures."

Mattis's final stop is Djibouti, where he is to meet with Presidnet Ismail Omar Guelleh to "further the US-Djibouti commitment to promoting regional stability." Djibouti borders Somalia, which is fighting the jihadist terror group al-Shabaab, while Yemen, whose civil war has become a Saudi-Iranian proxy war, lies just across the Mandeb Strait.

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