By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 23, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter had “exceptionally substantive” meetings with Saudi Arabia’s king and defense minister on regional security issues and new challenges, he said yesterday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
The secretary is in the Middle East on a weeklong trip to Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Carter met in Jeddah with King and Prime Minister Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud and others. He later briefed reporters about the discussions.
“We really rolled up our sleeves on the topics … discussed at the [U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council] Camp David summit in May,” Carter said, adding that the reason for his visit was to follow up on commitments by all countries at the summit to build closer relations in fields that include defense and security cooperation.
Carter characterized the U.S.-Saudi relationship as one that is longstanding and faces new challenges in the region.
“The two new challenges that preoccupy both the United States and Saudi Arabia today are, first of all, Iran and its malign activities in the region and potential for aggression. And No. 2, [the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] and other forms of violent extremism in the region,” the secretary said.
The leaders discussed Iran and ISIL along with regional issues of concern involving Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and others, Carter said. They also talked about several capabilities the United States and Saudi Arabia work on together “to bolster our joint deterrent and response capabilities in the Gulf region,” he added, including special operations and other ground forces, maritime and air forces, cyber forces, ballistic missile defense forces and others.
“We'll have an opportunity to follow up on many of these issues, both with President Obama with the king, when the king visits the United States in the fall,” Carter said, adding that he invited the defense minister to the United States in association with the king's visit or at another time.
The secretary said both the king and the defense minister reiterated their support for the Iranian nuclear deal.
Carter said the leaders also discussed strengthening training and other kinds of planning.
On Yemen, the secretary said they talked about the need that both the Saudis and the U.S. shares for a political settlement to the problem. "That's the way to keep the peace," he said. "That's the way to restore the humanitarian situation there. They see that as we see that: as the key.”