In their discussions, King Salman agreed to Trump’s request “to support” the establishment of “safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts” according to a statement from the White House.
Riyadh confirmed that the telephone discussion took place but state controlled Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that King Salman “confirmed his support and backing for setting up the safe zone in Syria” without mentioning Yemen.
President Trump, during his presidential campaign last year, had called Gulf States to pay for establishing safe zones to protect Syrian refugees.
Discussion between the two leaders also focused on strengthening their bilateral ties and the “depth and durability of the strategic relationship” between the two countries according to SPA. They renewed their plans to fight extremist groups with emphasis on the self-declared Islamic State and its spread in the region. In their discussion, Riyadh was urged “to lead a Middle East effort to defeat terrorism and to help build a new future economically and socially” in the region but it is unclear if King Salman has heeded the request.
Iran was also on their agenda as Tehran’s regional policies in the Middle East have been of concern for both Riyadh and Washington. The need to address “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” was agreed upon, the White House Statement noted. Iran’s increasing regional role and influence as well as its proclaimed military and defense breakthrough have raised eyebrows of several Middle Eastern countries; the Gulf States especially.