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Trump and King Salman reaffirm ties after US withdraws Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia

US president and monarch hold phone call amid speculation kingdom is no longer a strategic priority for Washington
A US statement on the call did not mention the Patriot missiles and the White House declined further comment (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman have “reaffirmed the strong United States-Saudi defence partnership," the White House has said, amid doubts over relations between the two countries.

Friday's phone call between the men came a day after reports that the US planned to withdraw two Patriot anti-missile batteries from Saudi Arabia that have been seen as a defence against Iran, leading to speculation the kingdom was no longer a strategic priority for Washington.

US to remove Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia: Report
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Tensions were heated last month as Trump tried to pressure Saudi Arabia to reduce its oil output after it increased its production amid a price war with Russia, hurting US oil producers.

"The two leaders agreed on the importance of stability in global energy markets, and reaffirmed the strong United States-Saudi defence partnership," White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

"The president and King Salman also discussed other critical regional and bilateral issues and their cooperation as leaders of the G7 and G20, respectively."

The statement did not mention the Patriot missiles and the White House declined further comment, Reuters reported.

Salman given ultimatum

Last month, it was reported that Trump had given Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto leader, an ultimatum to end his oil price war with Russia.

In a 2 April phone call, Trump told the crown price that unless Opec started cutting oil production, he would be unable to stop lawmakers from passing legislation to withdraw US troops from Saudi Arabia, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Trump warned Saudis to cut oil supply or lose US military support: Report
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On Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the Patriot missile withdrawal did not signal a decrease in support for the kingdom and was not related to the oil war.

Pompeo said the US still considered Iran a threat.

"Those Patriot batteries had been in place for some time. Those troops needed to get back," Pompeo told the Ben Shapiro radio show. "This was a normal rotation of forces."

Saudi Arabia said in a statement about Friday's phone call that Trump confirmed the US is committed to protecting its interests and the security of its allies in the region.

Trump also reiterated US support for efforts aimed at reaching a political solution to the crisis in Yemen, the statement said.

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