US President Donald Trump’s first Saudi Arabia visit has reportedly been successful as the two countries have not only signed deals ‘in excess of USD 380 billion’, they also extended cooperation against terrorism by declaring sanctions on senior Hezbollah leader Hashem Safieddine and Muhammad al-Isawi, a leader of the Islamic State group's operations on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
Agreements worth more than USD 380 billion have been signed between Riyadh and Washington on the first day of US President Donald Trump’s visit, the Saudi foreign minister said on Saturday.
“The two countries signed a series of agreements,” Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He said the “total value of investments... (is) in excess of USD 380 billion”.
Arms deals between Saudi Arabia and the United States
Washington inked arms deals worth almost USD 110 billion with Riyadh, a White House official confirmed.
“This package of defence equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats,” the official said.
It will also bolster the kingdom’s “ability to contribute to counter-terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on the US military to conduct those operations,” the official added.
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The official did not provide details of the agreements with Riyadh, which is one of the world’s biggest defence spenders.
A preliminary deal worth USD 6 billion to assemble 150 Lockheed Martin Blackhawk helicopters in Saudi Arabia was separately announced at the Saudi-US CEO Forum held in Riyadh during Trump’s visit.
The programme to “support the final assembly and completion of an estimated 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters” will support around 450 jobs in the kingdom, said a forum statement.
US defence contractors are major suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which for more than two years has led a coalition conducting air strikes and other operations against rebels in Yemen.
The new deals come despite mounting pressure on Washington from rights groups to stop arms sales to Riyadh, which has come under repeated criticism over civilian casualties in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday announced the creation of a new military industries firm as part of the kingdom’s efforts to boost defence production.
The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund said the new government-owned company, Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), “aims to become one of the world’s top 25 defence companies by 2030.”
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in an April report that Saudi Arabia last year was the world’s fourth-largest military spender, spending USD 63.7 billion.
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Sanction on Hezbollah leader Hashem Safieddine
Washington and Riyadh issued their first “joint terrorist designation”— blacklisting a Hezbollah leader.
Hashem Safieddine is head of the executive council of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese armed movement which Washington has branded a “foreign terrorist organisation”.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joined the United States in designating Hashem Safieddine,” the State Department said in a statement. “As a result, any of his assets held in Saudi Arabia are frozen, and transfers through the Kingdom’s financial sector, are prohibited.”
Separately, the department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism tweeted that this marked the “first-ever” State Department and foreign nation “joint terrorist designation”, underlining the close cooperation between US and Saudi officials.