US President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next ambassador to Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that the US needs “a strong and mature partnership with Saudi Arabia” to ensure stability in the Middle East, despite what he called “challenges” facing the partnership.

Testifying before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing, retired Army General John Abizaid told lawmakers it would be “difficult to imagine a successful US effort to undercut Sunni extremism or keep Iran in check without engaging and partnering with the Kingdom.”

Abizaid said despite the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, alleged abuses of innocent people and Saudi involvement in the war in Yemen, it is in the US interests to “make sure that the relationship is sound.”

The retired Army General said that the US relationship with Saudi Arabia is “all about a nation. It’s about a government.”

He added that he will look for every way to “make the long term problems work.”

Trump’s first trip abroad as president was to Saudi Arabia but he has not had an ambassador to the country since he took office.