Saudi king fails to meet Obama off plane at Riyadh airport

U.S. President Barack Obama is greeted upon his arrival at King Khalid International Airport for a summit meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 20, 2016 © Kevin Lamarque
Obama, who has visited Saudi Arabia more times than any US president before him, was not greeted by the Saudi king at the airport. Saudi state television broadcast no live pictures of the US president's arrival.

It was the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a local governor who met the American leader off the plane.

President Obama came to Saudi Arabia to take part in a summit of Persian Gulf leaders and discuss Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Yemen with King Salman.

This comes in stark contrast to the reception of other high-profile guests, whom the 80-year-old King Salman greeted personally on the airfield.

READ MORE: Washington rolls out red carpet for Saudi king to discuss bloody Yemen war, Iran, Syria

Obama did have a two-and-a-half hour conversation with King Salman later, a talk that reportedly "really cleared the air," the US administration officials assured the American media.

Barack Obama's visit has been downplayed by the Middle Eastern newspapers, too, generally saying that as a “lame duck” Obama hardly has time to mend strained relations, the BBC reports.

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Saudi King Salman at Erga Palace upon arriving for a summit meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 20, 2016 © Kevin Lamarque

The usually extremely close relations between Washington and Riyadh have been fraying recently over a number of issues Saudi Arabia regards as matters of life and death.

The families of victims of 9/11 terror acts in the US are once again trying to have the classified pages of the Congressional report released to the public as part of a lawsuit against the Saudi Arabian government. The documents may also contain details on a support network for the hijackers that featured the involvement of the Saudis, suspected of providing material support to Al-Qaeda ahead of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Obama administration has argued that stripping sovereign immunity from nations over terror attacks on the US would endanger Americans and spark similar legislation against the US.

In response to a threat to be held responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Saudi Arabia made it clear it would sell off up to $750 billion in US treasury securities and other assets if Congress passes the bill, thus putting Riyadh in jeopardy.

The US senators were quick to react, immediately proposing a restriction on sales or transfers of US-made air-to-ground weapons to Saudi Arabia.

READ MORE: Bipartisan bill in US Senate to restrict US arms sales to Saudi Arabia introduced

The countries have been close allies for decades, no matter how complicated relations between the two capitals are now. Washington and Riyadh have common global strategic interests and depend on each other.

READ MORE: Obama and GOP show ‘rare’ alliance over 9/11 bill that could harm US-Saudi ties

On Tuesday, the world’s leading oil producers failed to reach an agreement on capping production, only because Saudi Arabia changed its position last minute. This move is believed to be made in Washington’s favor, interested to keep oil prices low to apply pressure on certain countries with national budgets dependent on oil revenues, such as Iran, Russia and Venezuela.

There's also an unprecedented $95 billion price tag sale of American weapons to Riyadh under Obama.

READ MORE: Pentagon approves $11bn deal for 4 Lockheed ships to Saudi Arabia

Former Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that there is going to be a “recalibration” of the Saudis’ relationship with America.

“How far we can go with our dependence on America, how much can we rely on steadfastness from American leadership, what is it that makes for our joint benefits to come together,” said Turki, using rhetoric previously unexpected from Riyadh. “These are things that we have to recalibrate,” Turki stressed.