Obama to arrive in Saudi Arabia to attend GCC summit

Riyadh, April 20 (IANS) US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh to attend a summit with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

This is Obama’s fourth visit to the oil-rich kingdom since taking office in 2009.

The US president is scheduled to meet King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the Saudi royal court on Wednesday.

The White House said the US-GCC summit, scheduled for Thursday, will be an opportunity for leaders to discuss issues such as the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, regional conflicts, and sectarian tensions.

The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The summit comes on the heels of Obama’s criticism of Saudi Arabia’s regional role, which prompted a strong rebuke from the Saudi royal family.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, Obama described Saudi Arabia and other allies as “free riders” on American foreign policy, and criticized what he saw as Riyadh’s funding of religious intolerance.

Almost a year ago, in May 2015, Obama hosted leaders of Gulf nations at the White House and the Camp David retreat, the first meeting of the Gulf countries after a framework agreement on limiting Iran’s nuclear program.

Except for Kuwait and Qatar, top leaders from four of the six-member GCC countries were absent from the 2015 summit.

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