WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – US President Joe Biden will make his first visit to the Middle East next month, along with visits to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, the White House announced Tuesday.
The decision was made to move to Saudi Arabia between 13 and 16 July, despite the fact that, while he was a candidate, Biden called the country a “pariah” for human rights violations and renegotiated ties with it. promised to do.
According to an official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, Biden will meet with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the state. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
After assuming the presidency, the US government made it clear that Biden would not talk directly to the prince but directly to the emperor.
Human rights activists and some Democratic politicians warned Biden that he should not visit Saudi Arabia without first securing rights commitments, arguing that doing so would send the message that there would be no consequences for openly abused. Saudis have been accused of mass arrests, executions and violent suppression of any dissent.
But at a time of high inflation, a resurgent Iranian nuclear program and fears that China is projecting its power and influence internationally, the Biden administration has concluded that the Saudis, especially distancing themselves from the prince, are simply doesn’t work. ,
The visit was announced by the White House after Saudi Arabia helped persuade oil conglomerate OPEC+ to increase production by 648,000 barrels a day and agreed to extend a UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen. Biden called the decision on the ceasefire in Yemen ‘courageous’. The official said Prince Mohammed had a “leading role” in advancing the ceasefire.
In a statement announcing the visit, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said King Salman had invited Biden to visit Saudi Arabia on the sidelines of the Six Nations Council meeting in the city of Jeddah. Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates – as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
“In Saudi Arabia, the President will also discuss a number of bilateral, regional and international issues. These include support for UN brokerage in Yemen, the longest period of peace there since the war began seven years ago,” Jean-Pierre said.