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 on Monday, he said: “President (Donald) 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.”
During his visit, Kelly met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and discussed bilateral relations and cooperation to confront emerging and persistent security threats.
The visit and discussions highlighted the strong ties between the US and Saudi Arabia, particularly in counterterrorism, information sharing and cybersecurity, as well as ongoing efforts to share best practices in maritime, aviation and border security.
Kelly was joined by Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert, Chargé d’Affaires Christopher Henzel and Consul General Matthias Mitman.
The delegation was taken on a tour of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district, and visited Al-Shafei Mosque, the city’s oldest mosque, dating back to the time of Caliph Omar 1,400 years ago.
The US officials also visited Bayt Nasseef Heritage House in Jeddah’s historic district. Sami Nawwar, chairman of the Historic Jeddah Municipality, explained the significance of the mosque and other heritage sites to the delegation.
Kelly appreciated the opportunity to see the historical significance of Jeddah as the gateway of religious pilgrims to Makkah and Madinah.