US in final stages of $100 bln arms deal for Saudi Arabia: White House official

The United States is close to completing a series of deals to sell Saudi Arabia more than $100 billion in American arms and related maintenance, a senior White House official said on Friday, as President Donald Trump prepares to visit Riyadh in a week.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the arms package could end up surpassing more than $300 billion over a decade to help Saudi Arabia boost its defensive capabilities while maintaining U.S. ally Israel’s qualitative military edge.

“We are in the final stages of a series of deals,” the official said. The package is being developed to coincide with Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Trump leaves for the kingdom on May 19, the first stop on his maiden international trip.

Trump’s planned visit to Saudi Arabia

US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has described Saudi Arabia as a “critical ally in the region.” In an exclusive statement to Arab News at the end of his visit to Jeddah last Monday, he said: “President Trump has accepted the invitation of King Salman to visit Saudi Arabia later this month. The visit will reaffirm the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia and allow the leaders to discuss issues of strategic concern, including efforts to defeat terrorist groups and discredit radical ideologies.”

Kelly said the bilateral relationship is a key and longstanding one. “President Trump sees Saudi Arabia as a critical ally in the region, and he is coming to Saudi Arabia for his first official visit to emphasize the importance of the new administration’s goals to partner with the Kingdom in the areas of regional security and stability, counterterrorism, and other areas of common interest.”

Quoting Trump, Kelly said: “Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam, and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence, and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”