U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday asked Saudi King Abdullah for support in halting weapons smuggling into Gaza Strip and hailed the importance of U.S.-Saudi ties in his first talks with the Arab ruler since becoming president, the White House said.
Obama spoke to Abdullah during a series of phone calls with foreign leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the White House said in a statement, cited by Reuters. The call to Abdullah coincided with the publication of an article by Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, warning Obama Washington was putting Saudi ties at risk with its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an article on the Financial Times website, Turki said former President George W. Bush had left a "sickening legacy" in the Middle East. "If the U.S. wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact -- especially its 'special relationship' with Saudi Arabia -- it will have to drastically revise its policies vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine," Turki wrote.
In his phone call with Abdullah, Obama underscored the "importance of a strong U.S.-Saudi relationship" and voiced his appreciation for the Saudi king's support for interfaith dialogue and peace initiatives. "He asked for Saudi support for efforts to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza and expressed interest in continuing counter-terrorism cooperation," the White House said.
Obama also discussed the situation in Gaza with the British prime minister, the White House said.