The White House was scrambling Monday to put a positive face on an upcoming summit of Persian Gulf states after learning leaders from four of the six invited nations are expected to skip.
While those nations are still sending representatives to the summit being hosted by President Obama later this week at Camp David, the absence of crucial heads of state — notably, Saudi Arabia’s new king — could present an awkward situation for the administration.
In a statement Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Thursday’s summit coincides with a humanitarian cease-fire 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 — but the king would not.
Obama had planned to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman one-on-one a day before the gathering of leaders at the presidential retreat. The White House, though, did not present his decision to skip the summit as a sign of any substantial disagreement with the U.S.