Obama met King Salman shortly after arriving in the capital Riyadh on Wednesday, kicking off two days of tense talks with the Saudis and Washington’s other Persian Gulf allies.
“I and the Saudi people are very pleased that you, Mr. President, are visiting us here in the kingdom,” the monarch said at the beginning of the meeting at Riyadh’s Erga Palace.
Obama in response thanked Salman for hosting him and arranging the upcoming [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) summit which is slated to be held on Thursday.
“The American people send their greetings, and we are very grateful for your hospitality,” Obama said.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of a growing fight in Washington over whether to publicly release documents that may implicate the Riyadh regime in the planning of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York.
Riyadh has threatened to sell off $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes a bill that would allow American citizens to sue the Saudi government for any role it may have had in the attacks that killed 3,000 people.
If the bill is passed by the Republican-dominated Congress, Saudi assets in American could be frozen upon court order.
The White House has indicated that Obama would not hesitate to veto the legislation.
The Obama administration has also come under pressure by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to release 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report on 9/11.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks were Saudi citizens but the monarchy has long denied any role in the attacks.
Meeting with Persian Gulf allies
Obama will also attend the annual [P]GCC summit tomorrow to discuss the military campaign against the Daesh Takfiri group in Iraq and Syria.
Washington has long sought to convince its Arab allies to step up their contributions to the US-led coalition that has been targeting alleged Daesh position in Syria and Iraq since 2014.
Leaders from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will also be attending Thursday’s summit.
The American head of state will be joined at the summit of the six-nation alliance by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Carter met with his Saudi counterpart Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday, affirming the longtime security partnership between their countries.
The Fifth Fleet of the US Navy protects shipments in the Persian Gulf, including the oil tankers carrying Saudi crude.
Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US military hardware, and those arms sales have expanded under Obama, with more than $100 billion approved in 2015 alone.
The US continues to support the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has left nearly 9,400 people dead, including 4,000 women and children.