May 21, 2017

RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday Washington’s relations with Bahrain were set to improve, after meeting with the king of the Gulf Arab state during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“Our countries have a wonderful relationship together, but there has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration,” Trump said during a photo session with Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa in Riyadh.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“We’re going to have a very, very long-term relationship. I look forward to it very much – many of the same things in common.”

Trump’s White House decided this year to pursue a $5 billion sale to Bahrain of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and related equipment, which was held up last year by human rights concerns.

With help from some other Gulf Arab states, Bahrain crushed a 2011 uprising inspired by the “Arab Spring” led by its Shi’ite majority, which demanded more rights and representation.

The government accuses elements of the opposition of seeking to overthrow it by force with help from arch-foe Iran.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told Reuters last month that Trump better understood the threat to the United States’ Gulf Arab allies from Tehran than his predecessor Barack Obama.