US steps up talks with Saudi Arabia on arms deals worth tens of billions: report
NICHOLAS KAMM (AFP/File)
The US is working to push though deals for tens of billion of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia ahead of President Donald Trump's visit to the Gulf kingdom later this month, according to a report by Reuters published Friday.
The report, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the negotiations, said that the talks have intensified over recent weeks ahead of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia -- the first stop on his maiden foreign trip as president later this month.
The sources said that the 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.
Combat and artillery vehicles and more than $1 billion worth of munitions are also part of the negotiations, sources told Reuters.
Talks are also underway to advance an $11.5 billion deal for four advanced warships that was approved by the State Department in 2015 but which has yet to be finalized.
US and Saudi representatives met at the White House on Monday to discuss the trip, as well as financing for military equipment sales and stopping terrorist financing, Reuters reported, and on Thursday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi officials met with members of the Senate foreign relations committee.
Both the Pentagon and a representative for the Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment on the report.
White House and State Department officials told Reuters it was policy not to comment on proposed US defense sales until they had been submitted to Congress.
Major foreign weapons sales are subject to Congressional oversight, and must legally ensure that Israel maintain a qualitative military edge over its neighbors.
Trump's decision to visit Saudi Arabia on his first trip as president -- a break from traditional first visits to either Canada or Mexico -- signals US desire to reset relations with the Kingdom after increasingly strained ties under former president Barack Obama.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has long been a major ally of the US, but the relationship soured over Obama's initial reluctance getting involved in Syria and other regional problems, as well as the signing of a landmark nuclear accord and lifting of international sanctions against their regional rival, Shiite Iran.
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Trump in Washington in March, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has expressed optimism that the Trump presidency will be more engaged in the region, particularly in containing Iran.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Shiite Iran of interference in Arab affairs, particularly in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain.
(Staff with agencies)
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Must be combined with a peace deal w IL!