Washington (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's new foreign minister insisted Monday that King Salman's last minute decision not to attend a Camp David summit was not intended as a snub to the United States.
"This is not related in any way, shape or form to any disagreement between the two countries," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters at Saudi Arabia's embassy Washington.
As late as Friday, US officials said King Salman had accepted an invitation to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday ahead of a Camp David retreat for Gulf leaders.
But the kingdom now says it will instead send Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef and Salman's son, Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
This was interpreted by many as a deliberate rebuff to Obama, at a time when ties between the allies have been strained by Saudi opposition to a proposed US nuclear deal with Iran.
But Jubeir, until recently the Saudi ambassador to Washington, said this idea was "really off base" and that the replacement delegates were "the right people" to represent Riyadh.
He also played down reports that Saudi Arabia was lobbying for a new written defense pact with the United States, explaining: "Our faith in America's word is total."