WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East next month with visits to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia, the White House announced Tuesday.
The decision to visit Saudi leaders during the July 13-16 trip comes after Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee branded the kingdom a “pariah” because of his human rights record and vowed to recalibrate US-Saudi Arabia relations.
Biden plans to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. US Secret Service Agent determined Prince Mohammed probably ordered the brutal killing of in 2018 US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. After Biden took office, his administration made it clear that the president would avoid direct engagement with the crown prince and instead focus on King Salman.
Human rights lawyers and some Democrat allies warned Biden against visiting the oil-rich kingdom, saying such a visit without first seeking human rights commitments would send a message to Saudi leaders that there are no consequences for egregious rights violations. The Saudis have been accused of using mass arrests, executions and violence to quell dissent.
But at a time of skyrocketing prices at the pumpgrowing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and constant concern that China is expanding its global presence, Biden and his national security team have determined that freezing the Saudis, particularly the crown prince, is simply not in the US interest.
The Saudi embassy in Washington said Biden will meet with both King Salman and Prince Mohammed, describing the visit as being at King Salman’s invitation “to reinforce the historic bilateral relationship and the outstanding strategic partnership between” the two countries strengthen.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks forward to welcoming President Biden and defining the next chapters of our partnership,” the Saudi embassy said in a statement. “At a time of global challenges related to the world economy, health, climate and international conflicts, the partnership between our two countries remains vital in promoting peace, prosperity and stability around the world.”
The White House announced the trip after Saudi Arabia helped push OPEC+ to do so this month Increase in oil production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, and the Kingdom agreed to an extension a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations in its seven-year war with Yemen. Biden called the Saudi ceasefire decision “brave”. Prince Mohammed, commonly referred to by his initials MBS, played a “key role” in brokering an extension of the ceasefire, according to the government official.
White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre In a statement announcing the trip to the Middle East, King Salman said he had invited Biden to visit the kingdom during a meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – in the Visit the port city of Jeddah. as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
“During his visit to Saudi Arabia, the President will also discuss a range of bilateral, regional and global issues with his counterparts. This includes supporting the United Nations-brokered ceasefire in Yemen, which has led to the most peaceful period there since the war began seven years ago,” said Jean-Pierre. “He will also discuss ways to expand regional economic and security cooperation, including new and promising infrastructure and climate initiatives, as well as deterring threats from Iran, promoting human rights and ensuring global energy and food security.”
Biden’s first stop during the Middle East swing will be Israel for a long-planned visit Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem. He will then meet with Palestinian Authority leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank. Biden will conclude the hurricane trip with a visit to Jeddah to meet GCC leaders and hold talks with King Salman, the Crown Prince and other Saudi officials.
The trip to Israel comes at a difficult time for Bennett’s fragile coalition as he seeks to avert further elections and the possible return of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power, and as Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance.
Biden’s time in Israel coincides with the Maccabiah Games, a sports competition that brings together thousands of Jewish and Israeli athletes from around the world. Biden, who first visited Israel as a young senator nearly 50 years ago, is also expected to meet with athletes attending the Games.
Israeli officials, in their dispute with the Biden administration, have argued that US relations with Arab capitals, including Riyadh, are vital to Israel’s security and overall stability in the region. The visit could also provide an opportunity to begin talks on a longer-term project to normalize Israeli-Saudi relations, which the government sees as a longer-term plan.
Amid questions about a possible visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, Biden stressed that the relationship has multiple facets that impact U.S. and Middle East security.
“Look, I’m not going to change my view on human rights,” Biden said. “But as President of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can, peace if I can. And I will try.”
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/14/biden-to-visit-israel-and-pariah-saudi-arabia-next-month/ Biden is visiting Israel and the “pariah” Saudi Arabia next month