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Kerry Visits Riyadh, Tries to Patch Souring Relations

US Secretary of State travels to Saudi Arabia in bid to smooth tensions over US Mid-East policy
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 10/31/2013, 8:19 PM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Flash 90

As an overture to Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State John Kerry is starting a nine-day Middle East trip with a stop in Riyadh, in an attempt to placate growing tensions between the two nations.

Kerry will meet King Abdullah on Sunday, with Iranian nuclear talks and the Syrian conflict figuring to list high on the agenda.

AFP reports that State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki released a statement Thursday that Kerry "will reaffirm the strategic nature of the US-Saudi relationship given the importance of the work between our two countries on shared challenges."

On October 22 the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud, revealed his country plans to scale back cooperation with the United States in training Syrian rebels.  

The decision reflects a growing rift between Saudi Arabia and the US, as the oil kingdom feels discontent over President Barak Obama's Middle East policies, both regarding Syria and the softening stance towards a nuclear Iran.

Earlier in October Saudi Arabia rejected a seat on the UN Security Council in protest of the body's inability to end the Syrian conflict, a move intelligence chief Bandar said was meant to express dissatisfaction with America, not the UN.

In 2009, Saudi exports to China topped exports to the US for the first time, with some speculating that the country may shift its ties eastward as relations sour with the US. 

Kerry's trip, from November 3 to 11, will take him to Poland, Israel, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Algeria and Morocco. In Israel he will visit Bethlehem, and is expected to continue pushing the peace talks.

The talks are in tension following the release of 26 murderers as an Israeli "gesture," and Palestinians accusations following an Israeli building announcement in eastern Jerusalem.