US, Saudis Close to Deal on Defense Pact

( – The US Department of State describes the United States’ relations with Saudi Arabia as diplomatic. Each nation has a vested and common interest in maintaining stability in the Middle East. The department explains that Saudi Arabia plays an important role in ensuring peace and prosperity in the region, given its geographical location. Recently, the countries have been in talks regarding a defense pact.

On May 20, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby stated that Saudi Arabia and the US are “closer than [they’ve] ever been” to a bilateral defense pact. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has recently made great progress in talks with the Saudis.

The negotiations involve the US guarantees to protect Saudi Arabia and give the nation access to more advanced weapons and, perhaps, emerging technologies like AI. In exchange, the Saudis are to stop buying arms from China and limit the country’s investment in the Middle Eastern country.

The deal is tricky, as arms sales to Saudi Arabia must not give the nation a “qualitative military edge” over Israel, as defined in the US agreement with that country. In other words, Israel must stay ahead of its neighbors in the region. The potential sale to the Saudis involves F-35 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Sullivan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials over the past weekend. While they made great strides, Kirby said the work is not complete.

The US still has to work on the parts related to Israel and the Palestinians before completing the deal. After the talks, the kingdom released a statement saying the parties had reached a “semi-final version” of an agreement. It said the deal included a path to a “two-state solution that meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

President Joe Biden is “committed to a two-state solution,” which Kirby said will likely not materialize for some time.

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