Obama and Gulf allies discuss regional security, Islamic State

US President Barack Obama was meeting with Gulf allies in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to discuss regional security and the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

Obama, on the second day of a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, kicked off the summit with leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) by posing for a group photo.

Shortly after, the leaders moved into a meeting room in Diriyah Palace in the capital Riyadh for their summit meeting, the second in nearly a year.

The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar and Oman

Obama chatted with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed who sat on his right. Saudi King Salman sat on Obama's left.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice were also present.

Topics on the agenda include the regional conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya and ways of strengthening the US-led war on Islamic State, the White House said.

The leaders were also discussing regional security and Shiite Iran, which Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies accuse of meddling in their affairs and destabilizing the region.

US support for the lifting of sanctions against Iran in the run-up to last year's landmark nuclear agreement has strained ties between Washington and its traditional Gulf allies.

In May 2015, Obama had hosted a GCC summit at Camp David outside Washington and pledged an "iron-clad commitment" to Gulf allies, while briefing them on the details of the Iran nuclear deal.

Obama arrived in the Saudi capital on Wednesday as part of an international goodbye tour before the end of his presidency in January that will also take him to Britain and Germany.

He met behind closed doors with King Salman, whose country and Iran back opposite warring sides in Yemen and Syria.

Saudi Arabia remains frustrated over Obama's decision to back down from airstrikes against Iran's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held area of Damascus in 2013 that killed hundreds.

Washington has been critical of Saudi Arabia's human rights record, expressing concerns over the execution of dissidents including influential Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25

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