Biden to meet Saudi crown prince during trip to Middle East

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The president of United States, Joe Biden to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmanduring a trip to the Middle East in July, the White House said Tuesday, as the administration moves to bolster support for a key ally despite human rights concerns.

Biden will travel to the Middle East from July 13 to 16, the White House said in a statement, starting in Israel and the West Bank before landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, he was expected to meet regional leaders as part of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit, the White House said.

The visit to the oil-rich kingdom comes as Biden is trying to find ways to reduce gas prices in the United States. The group of oil-producing nations called OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia, recently agreed to boost oil production to help lower prices.

Photo: Reuters

Earlier, a senior US official said Biden would meet with Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, but the White House statement did not mention the meeting.

When asked about the omission aboard Air Force One, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters: “Yes, we can expect the president to see the crown prince.”.

Earlier this month, the White House said Biden still considered the crown prince a pariah for the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. US intelligence concluded that Prince Mohammed approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggia critic of the regime.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if Biden “determines that he is interested in engaging with a particular leader, and if such engagement can deliver results, then he will do so.”

The official pointed to the crown prince’s role in helping to secure an extension of a UN-brokered truce between Yemen’s warring parties as an example of the need to engage with Saudi Arabia as a way to help bring peace and security to the region.

The diplomacy and the president’s trip signify an effort to mend the rift in relations stemming from Khashoggi’s murder. US intelligence concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the strike team that killed and dismembered to Khashoggi at a consulate in Istanbul.

Weeks after taking office in January 2021, Biden released the intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder as a statement of responsibility and imposed sanctions on some of those involved in the murder. But he did not take any action against Prince Mohammedwhich drew criticism.

Asked if Biden would bring up the Khashoggi killing in Saudi Arabia, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN that Biden has spoken about the case in the past and that “human rights have always been important.” are on the agenda when we meet with counterparts from around the world.” the world.”

During the stopover in Israel, Biden will emphasize America’s commitment to the country, which includes billions in military support.

It will also hold a virtual summit with the leaders of Israel, India and the United Arab EmiratesIt’s as a way to show that regional partnerships extend beyond the Middle East, the official said.

While in the West Bank, Biden plans to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders to reaffirm their commitment to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, the official said.

The trip will end in Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with about a dozen leaders from Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

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