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WASHINGTON: The US-Saudi defence package would help Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states fight Iran’s growing influence in the region, the US State Depar­tment said on Sunday.

A separate White House statement, however, underlines the need to “counter violent extremist messaging, disrupt financing of terrorism, and advance defence cooperation,” as the main purpose of a renewed defe­nce partnership betw­een the two countries.

But a State Department statement, issued in Washi­ngton, names Iran as one of the main threats confronting Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. The defence package “supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats,” the statement adds.

On Saturday, the United States and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement for the kingdom to purchase $110 billion worth of military equipment and services from Washington. Other deals, also signed during President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip to Riyadh, would bring in $380 billion to the United States, creating the jobs and economic uplift that the US leader promised during his election campaign in 2016.

The White House also released a joint strategic vision, which it said would bring a new period in their partnership, building “upon their continued trust and shared interests.

The two nations plan to form a Strategic Joint Consultative Group, to meet at least once a year, alternating between the two countries. It will review areas of cooperation to further strengthen this partnership.

The State Department said the defence package bolsters the Kingdom’s ability to provide for its own security and continue contributing to counter-terrorism operations across the region, reducing the burden on US military forces.

The department noted that the package not demonstrates the US commitment to a partnership with Saudi Arabia, but would also “expand opportunities for American companies in the region, potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.”

The intended sales fall broadly into five categories: border security and counter-terrorism, maritime and coastal security, air force modernisation,

air and missile defence, and cyber-security and communications upgrades. Included are offers of extensive training and support to strengthen our partnership and the Saudi armed forces.

“Collectively, they present the opportunity to significantly augment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capabilities to help deter regional threats and enhance its ability to protect its borders and contribute to coalition counter-terrorism operations,” the State Department said.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2017