Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will not take part in a U.S.-Arab summit hosted this week by President Barack Obama, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunday, canceling also a planned White House meeting that had been announced only days earlier.
The summit begins Wednesday with delegations from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council visiting the White House, then continues Thursday with talks at the president’s Camp David retreat.
Jubeir said King Salman will send Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in his place. He cited the summit’s overlap with a five-day cease-fire and humanitarian effort in neighboring Yemen where Saudi Arabia has led a campaign of airstrikes against anti-government fighters.
An Obama administration official said the change was “not in response to any substantive issue.”
With King Salman skipping the summit, only the leaders of Qatar and Kuwait will be heading their delegations. Kuwait’s emir, Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah, traveled to Washington on Sunday and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was due to depart Doha on Monday.
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said and United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan are not taking part because of health reasons. Bahrain’s delegation will be headed by the tiny island kingdom’s crown prince rather than King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. No reason has been given.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said last week that the summit would include discussions on deepening security cooperation with Gulf nations and “seeking common approaches” to the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
The talks will also likely include the ongoing negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and Gulf concerns that Iran would gain freedom from sanctions while still retaining the ability to develop a nuclear weapon.