The U.S. defense secretary arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday for an unscheduled visit, his first to a key American ally in the Mideast since taking the position this July.
According to Saudi-run Al-Arabiya TV, Mark Esper will meet with Saudi officials to discuss regional issues, including tension with Iran.
With no comments yet on the visit either from Washington or Riyadh, local media noted that the visit comes close on the heels of a visit last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the visit, Putin signed around 20 agreement in various sectors, including energy.
A few days before his visit, the Pentagon announced the deployment of around 2,000 U.S. soldiers and two fighter squadrons in Saudi Arabia in response to attacks this September on the country’s oil facilities which both countries held Iran responsible for.
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara