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Obama Meets With Gulf Leaders To Discuss ISIS Threat

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Constructive and fruitful, that is the diplomatic language the king of Saudi Arabia used today to describe his meetings with President Obama and other Gulf Arab leaders. President Obama also tried to put a positive spin on the talks, despite growing differences between the U.S. and its longtime Gulf allies. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama insists those differences have been overblown. After two days of talks, he says, the U.S. and its Gulf allies have reached a common vision on how to pursue the fight against the Islamic State and deal with surrounding conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Obama acknowledged some disagreements with the Arabs, but tried to downplay them as mere tactical differences.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: Probably the biggest area where there's been tactical differences has been with respect to Iran.

HORSLEY: Sunni Arab countries were alarmed by U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, a country they see as both a religious rival and a regional troublemaker. Obama tried to reassure the Saudis and others that the U.S. will continue to resist Iranian aggression in the Middle East, but he also called for a dual track of diplomacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: We're not naive, but as I pointed out during the height of the Cold War, both the Democratic presidents like John F. Kennedy and Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan still negotiated with the Soviet Union.

HORSLEY: The Saudis remain deeply skeptical and their sense of vulnerabilities has been heightened by civil wars on all sides and the steep drop in oil prices.

Analyst Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Center likens the U.S.-Saudi relationship to an awkward marriage that's not likely to see a second honeymoon or a complete divorce.

DAVID MILLER: The U.S. and the Saudis are going to have to find a way to cooperate on the issues that unite them and, tricky as it may be, to manage the issues that separate them.

HORSLEY: From Saudi Arabia, the president traveled to London for more challenging talks with European allies. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.