Saudi prince sweeps through Washington on diplomatic, economic mission

eputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (L) is escorted by U.S. Deputy Chief of Protocol Mark Walsh as they walk into in the White House on June 17, 2016 in Washington, DC. The deputy crown prince will meet privately with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss issues "including de-escalating regional conflicts, our campaign against ISIL, Saudi Arabia's National Transformation Program, and efforts to further progress on the objectives agreed to at the U.S.-GCC Summit in April," according to the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, left, walks to the White House Friday morning. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s announcement this year it would begin selling shares in state-owned Aramco signaled an abrupt economic shift for the kingdom as it tries to wean itself from dependence on oil revenue.

This week Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is touring the United States in support of those economic reforms, reportedly meeting with business executives in Silicon Valley and New York.

But first he stopped off in Washington, where he met privately with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Friday morning.

Dressed in traditional Saudi robes and a red, checkered head scarf, Salman entered the White House in front of a line of photographers eager to grab a photo of the 30-year-old royal.

The meeting comes amid growing tension between the two countries. U.S. politicians have become more vocal critics of Saudi foreign policy and even questioned what role government officials there might have played in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In Friday’s meeting, Obama expressed appreciation for Saudi’s contribution in the fight against the Islamic State, and the two leaders discussed ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen as well as “Iran’s destabilizing activities,” a White House spokesman said.

“The president commended the deputy crown prince’s commitment to reform Saudi Arabia’s economy and underscored strong U.S. support,” the White House said in an email.

Salman has been in Washington since Monday, taking closed-door meetings on Capital Hill and speaking with the likes of Secretary of State John Kerry and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“He clearly expressed in detail a vision for the Saudi economic strategy, security strategy and the reason why he sees the relationship with the United States important for the country,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, told Bloomberg News. “He’s very impressive.”