Biden to visit ‘pariah’ Saudi Arabia and Israel next month – Times of India


WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday that he will visit Saudi Arabia next month for talks with leaders of the kingdom, dramatically recasting his stance on the kingdom he vowed to make an “pariah” as a Democratic candidate for the White House .
With the visit coming to the end of a July 13-16 trip to the Middle East with stops in Israel and the West Bank, Biden is easing his hostile stance on the Saudis’ human rights.
He wants to mend the relationship at a time when the US could use help from the oil-rich kingdom to alleviate rising pump prices for motorists at home and around the world.
The stop in Saudi Arabia includes talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the kingdom.
US intelligence has determined that Prince Mohammed likely ordered the 2018 murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Speaking briefly to reporters ahead of his departure to Philadelphia on Tuesday for a labor convention, Biden burst out when asked about his upcoming visit to Jeddah, noting that his team had set out in a statement “everything I do in the Middle -East. ”
Human rights advocates and some Democratic allies warned Biden against visiting the kingdom, saying that such a visit without first receiving human rights commitments would send a message to Saudi leaders that gross violations of human rights would not be affected. the rights.
The Saudis have been accused of using mass arrests, executions and violence to quell dissent.
But at a time of skyrocketing gas pump prices, growing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and ongoing concerns that China is expanding its global footprint, Biden and his national security team have determined that freezing the Saudis, especially the Crown Prince, is easy. not in the interest of the US.
sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told CNN Biden has “a tough job dealing with gasoline prices and finding ways to find new sources and supplies to lower inflation.” in the energy sector.”
But Durbin said he had “mixed feelings” about the visit and called the Saudi’s human rights record “a disgrace”.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, told CNN that the government respects the differences of opinion over the president’s decision.
He stressed “that Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the region in counter-terrorism, the war in Yemen and energy production.”
The Saudi embassy in Washington said Biden would meet both King Salman and Prince Mohammed and described the visit as coming at the king’s invitation “to strengthen the historic bilateral relations and preeminent strategic partnership between” the two countries.
“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 global economy, health, climate and international conflict, the partnership between our two countries is as crucial as ever to promoting peace, prosperity and stability around the world.”
The White House announced the trip after Saudi Arabia gave OPEC+ a nudge this month to ramp up its oil production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, and the kingdom agreed to a United Nations brokered ceasefire in its seven-year war with Yemen.
Biden called the Saudi ceasefire decision “courageous.” Prince Mohammed, usually referred to by his initials MBS, played a “critical role” in brokering an extension of the ceasefire, the government official said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that King Salman invited Biden to visit the kingdom at a meeting in the port city of Jeddah of the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Arab Emirates — as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
While in Saudi Arabia, the president will also discuss a range of bilateral, regional and global issues with his colleagues. These include support for the UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen, which has led to the most peaceful period there since the beginning of the war seven years ago,” said Jean-Pierre.
“He will also discuss means 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 in Israel for a long-planned visit with 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 whirlwind tour with a visit to Jeddah.
The trip to Israel comes at a difficult time for Bennett’s fragile coalition as he tries to prevent another election and the possible return to power of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and as Iran’s nuclear program progresses.
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 nearly 50 years ago as a young senator, is also expected to meet athletes participating in the games.
Israeli officials in their engagement with the Biden administration have emphasized their position that US relations with Arab capitals, including Riyadh, are critical to Israel’s security and overall stability in the region.
The visit could also provide an opportunity to spark talks about what the government sees as a long-term project to normalize Israel-Saudi relations.
Faced with questions earlier this month about a possible visit to Saudi Arabia, Biden emphasized that the relationship had multiple facets affecting the security of the US and the Middle East.
“Look, I’m not going to change my view of 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 that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

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