Washington: The ties between the US and Saudi Arabia is characterised by extensive counter-terrorism cooperation, the White House has said, moments before President Barack Obama left for the Kingdom as part of his three-nation six-day tour to Saudi Arabia, the UK and Germany.
"It is a relationship that is characterised by extensive counter-terrorism cooperation. That cooperation enhances our national security and makes the American people safer. The Saudi government happens to think that it enhances the national security of their country as well and makes the Saudi people safer as well. That is why we are able to cooperate," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday.
Obama yesterday along with his top officials left White House for the Andrews Airforce Base for his six-day three nation tour starting with Saudi Arabia. The UK and Germany are the other two countries where he will visit.
"It does not mean that there are not differences between our two countries. There are substantial differences between our two countries. And the President does not hesitate to raise his concerns about those differences as well.
"I am confident he will do that in the context of the meetings that he is preparing for later this week. I think that is the point. That is the essence of our concern and that is the essence of our proposal for how these kinds of situations can be resolved moving forward," Earnest said.
He said Speaker of House of Representatives Paul Ryan indicated that he at least had some more concerns with the way that this bill is structured because of the consequences it could have for the US relationship not just with Saudi Arabia but with countries around the world.
Earnest was responding to a question on the opposition of the White House to a legislation tabled in the Senate which if passed would allow victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack to sue Saudi Arabia. US media has reported that Saudi Arabia has threatened to withdraw its USD 750 billion investment in the US if such a legislation is passed. The White House has indicated that Obama will veto such a bill.
"I think that taking a step like this would significantly enhance the risk to the US not in the context of our relationship with Saudi Arabia necessarily, but the concern that we have is much broader than that.
"Our concern is with our ability to do business in countries around the world. And sometimes it is not just related to economic business, but actually to the business of our national security, to the business of the functioning of the state - whether that relates to national security operations, or in some cases, even humanitarian operations," Earnest added.