Pentagon chief discusses military co-operation with Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper met Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defence minister, on Monday on the first day of his visit to Riyadh.
Mr Esper and Prince Khaled reviewed relations between the two countries and aspects of strategic and military co-operation, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency reported.
The two also reviewed challenges, threats, common security and defence issues.
Prince Khaled met Mr Esper in August at the Pentagon, where the US official called the US-Saudi Arabia relationship “one of the most enduring” in the Middle East.
During his first visit to the kingdom, Mr Esper met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On landing in Riyadh, he met the head of US Central Command, which is responsible for military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
US-Iran tensions have risen to new highs since May last year, when the Trump administration withdrew from an international accord that put limits on Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the easing of sanctions.
On October 11, the Pentagon said it was sending more US troops to Saudi Arabia after Riyadh asked for reinforcements.
That came after the September 14 drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabian oil plants, which Washington blames on Iran.
Iran has responded apprehensively to US troop deployments this year.
But Riyadh and Tehran have shown a willingness to talk.
Iran last week urged diplomacy to reduce tensions, including the war in Yemen, but said that an Iranian tanker damaged in the Red Sea had been hit by rockets and there would have to be consequences.
US Defence Secretary Mike Esper also met King Salman