President George W. Bush concluded his three-day official visit to Saudi Arabia today. The president departed Riyadh for Egypt, the final stop on an eight-day Middle East tour that has included Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
During the visit, President Bush held official talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz on a range of key issues, in particular the Middle East peace process and international efforts to restart talks in light of the November 2007 peace conference in Annapolis.
The Saudi-US talks also addressed Iraq, the political crisis in Lebanon, the situation in Pakistan following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, international counterterrorism efforts, and ways to boost bilateral cooperation in all areas.
In addition to his official talks with King Abdullah, President Bush had the opportunity to experience Saudi hospitality and culture. King Abdullah held two dinners for President Bush, one at the royal palace in Riyadh and one at his Jenadriyah ranch, and awarded him with the King Abdulaziz Medal. The King also hosted a breakfast for the president before his departure from Riyadh this morning.
In Jenadriyah, King Abdullah and President Bush enjoyed a horse show of thoroughbred Arabians at the royal stables and a show of hunting falcons. The president’s sightseeing also included a tour of Riyadh’s National Museum and a visit to the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, where he participated in the ardha, the traditional sword dance of Saudi Arabia.
The president’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes within a longstanding framework of close relations between Saudi and American leaders. Since King Abdulaziz Al-Saud and President Franklin D. Roosevelt met on board the USS Quincy in 1945, every Saudi King has met with the sitting American president. President Richard M. Nixon was the first US president to pay an official visit to the Kingdom in 1974, followed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, President George H.W. Bush in 1990, and President Bill Clinton in 1994.