US President Donald Trump has reportedly intensified negotiations for arms deals with Saudi Arabia ahead of a visit to Riyadh later this month, despite growing concerns over the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.
Trump has recently been trying to rush military contracts, some new, others already in the works, worth tens of billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia, sources close to the talks told Reuters this week.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the contracts include a missile defence system worth $1 billion, which would likely be used to intercept rockets fired in the county from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
Deals for a battle communications system and satellite capabilities were reportedly being discussed with British-made combat vehicles also being under consideration.
The sources added Washington was trying to hammer out previously reported contracts for warships approved in 2015 but that have never been finalised.
Last month the State Department reportedly approved a $390 million sale of precision guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, a deal that had been halted by the Obama Administration due to concerns about civilian casualties in the war in Yemen.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched air raids against Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies after the rebels overran much of Yemen.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the war since that date, the UN has said, including around 1,400 children.
Another three million Yemenis have been displaced by the conflict and millions are in need of food aid.
Trump announced on Thursday that Riyadh would be the first stop on his first overseas tour as US president.
Trump will meet Gulf and Middle East leaders where the issue of Iran, militancy and other issues will feature on the agenda.
In March, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud visited Trump at the White House, while senior Trump officials have also made the trip to Riyadh.
Trump last month backed a plan to boost Saudi investment in the US, with the White House touting an initiative it said could potentially provide more than $200 billion for infrastructure and other sectors.