Tillerson lands in Riyadh at start of Gulf and South Asia tour

RIYADH: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Riyadh on Saturday to attend a landmark meeting between officials from Saudi Arabia and Iraq aimed at improving relations between the two countries and countering Iran’s growing regional influence.
The chief US diplomat flew into King Salman Air Base a little more than a week after US President Donald Trump unveiled a strategy to contain Iran and compel Tehran to agree to close what he charged are flaws in the multinational 2015 deal designed to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Tillerson’s only official meeting on Saturday was a working dinner with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir.
He was stopping in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a six-day trip that will also take him to Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland.
His talks in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar were expected to be dominated by the topic of Iran’.
Fighters have aided Iraqi security forces in seizing the oil-rich area of the northern city of Kirkuk as part of an effort to crush a bid for independence made by the Kurdish minority.
Yemen’s grinding civil war was expected to be high on Tillerson’s agenda.
On Sunday Tillerson is due to attend the inaugural session of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, a body whose creation was promoted by the Trump administration to bolster relations between Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, whose majority government has close ties with Tehran.
During his visit Tillerson is also expected to explore the possibility of renewing a push to end a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and other US Arab allies, although he has conceded he is not optimistic.
In an interview on Thursday with Bloomberg, Tillerson blamed few sides for the lack of progress toward ending the four-month-old crisis.
“It’s up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear — they are ready to engage,” said Tillerson, who forged close ties to the Gulf Arab countries in his former position as CEO of Exxon Mobil. — Reuters