Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will skip a May 14 summit of Persian Gulf leaders with President Barack Obama, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
At the summit Obama is expected to offer the Gulf leaders reassurances over the efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.
The decision marks a diplomatic snub from one of the top leaders in the region, and follows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Saudi capital last week, noted the report.
Saudi’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a statement on state media that the king decided not to attend the meeting, which will be hosted at Camp David.
The king instead would focus on the Yemen ceasefire and humanitarian aid effort, according to the statement. Saudi Arabia is currently leading an air offensive against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Saudi Foreign Minister said that the king had delegated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to lead the Saudi delegation, which will also include Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials.
Arab governments have been expressing their concern about the terms of a potential nuclear deal with Iran. The major Sunni states have warned that a final agreement could allow Shiite-dominated Iran, their regional rival, to keep the technologies needed to produce nuclear weapons.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, recently said that Iran should not be given “deals it does not deserve”.
The United Arab Emirates indicated last week that it would be seeking a written guarantee from the United States with regards to the threat from a nuclear Iran.
At Camp David, Obama is expected to try to reassure Arab Gulf allies, who remain suspicious over the Iranian nuclear deal pursued by his administration.
“We make clear that we remain concerned about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, and it is precisely because of those concerns that we believe it is so important that Iran not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told reporters in Riyadh Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal. “And we will continue to work with our friends and allies in the region to define America’s and the GCC’s security relationship going forward.”
Among leaders of the six GCC states, the rulers of Kuwait and Qatar have been confirmed for the Camp David summit.
Bahrain said Sunday that its King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had opted not to attend. The Bahraini crown prince would lead the country’s delegation instead.