Saudi Arabia's King Salman will not attend a Camp David summit of US and allied Arab leaders, his foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said today. In a statement, al-Jubeir says the summit Thursday coincides with a humanitarian cease-fire in the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Shiite rebels known as Houthis. He said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also interior minister, would lead the Saudi delegation and the king's son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is defense minister, will also attend.
President Barack Obama had planned to meet Salman one-on-one a day before the gathering of leaders but the White House did not take his decision to skip the summit as a sign of any substantial disagreement with the US. The king, who took power in January after his brother King Abdullah died, has not traveled abroad since his ascension to the throne. At the summit, leaders of Gulf nations will be looking for assurance that Obama has their support when the region feels under siege from Islamic extremists. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are also in various states of chaos. Arab allies also feel threatened by Iran's rising influence and worry its pending nuclear pact may embolden Tehran to intrude more aggressively in countries of the region. (Read about a royal shake-up in Saudi Arabia.)