US Defense chief to visit Middle East next week

US Defence Minister James Mattis reaffirmed Washington's commitment to NATO during a meeting in Brussels

US Defence Minister James Mattis reaffirmed Washington's commitment to NATO during a meeting in Brussels

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will embark April 17 on his fourth trip since becoming secretary.

Mattis will begin his trip in Saudi Arabia, where on Tuesday he will have a series of meetings with "key worldwide counterparts to strengthen commitments to the U.S. -Saudi security partnership", according to a Pentagon statement.

Egypt has been seeking to tighten its relationship with the U.S. since president Donald Trump was elected.

The U.S. Department of Defense says the goal of the trip is to shore up military ties and discuss efforts to combat terrorism.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi visited Washington earlier this month in his first official trip to the USA as head of state, where Trump said that he was "very much behind" El-Sisi, who he said has a "great friend and ally in the United States".

Mattis and regional United States allies are also expected to discuss the growing influence of Iran.

The stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar "will be the most important", according to the expert, "as the Trump administration will want to square away Gulf Arab support for post-Daesh stabilization plans in Syria and push back against Iran's activities in the region".

Mattis will begin the six-day tour with a visit to Saudi Arabia, followed by Egypt.

On Saturday, Mattis will visit Qatar to meet "key worldwide leadership" and work on strengthening "regional security architectures", the Pentagon said.

Mattis met Liberman in March when the latter visited Washington.

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