Biden meets with Saudi crown prince despite ‘untouchable’ pledge


WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a trip to the Middle East in July, a break from his campaign pledge to make the kingdom a “pariah” as he struggles to fight back. Record rise in gasoline prices in the United States.

Weeks after taking office, Biden changed US policy toward Saudi Arabia, taking a tougher stance on the kingdom’s human rights record, notably the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018. US intelligence implicated the prince in the murder . The Saudi government denied any involvement.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, had a close relationship with the prince, the country’s de facto ruler. But while running for president in 2019, Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia “pay the price, and, in effect, make it a pariah” for the Khashoggi murder. The White House said, as recently as this month, that Biden’s view has not changed.

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Human rights advocates see the talks with the crown prince – part of Biden’s first trip to the region – as contradicting his promise to put human rights at the center of US foreign policy. Biden’s trip from July 13 to July 16 will also include stops in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if Biden “determines it is in his best interest to engage with any particular leader, and if that engagement can produce results, he will.”

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

Biden’s visit to the kingdom from July 15-16 comes after the group of oil-producing countries in OPEC +, led by Saudi Arabia, agreed to increase oil production to offset Russian losses – in the wake of Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine – and to combat rising oil. Prices and inflation. Read more

Gulf Summit

Washington’s desire to improve relations with Gulf states has become even more pressing after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which highlighted the importance of Gulf oil producers as Europe looks to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

Three Western diplomats said the United States was also trying to isolate Russia over the Ukraine war, urging Gulf states to publicly condemn Moscow. The Gulf states have so far tried to maintain their neutral position, but some Western diplomats consider this a bias towards Moscow.

The White House said Biden would meet with regional leaders, including Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, in Saudi Arabia as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. A Gulf source familiar with the matter said that Washington had proposed an agenda that included regional security, food security, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and energy issues.

In Israel from July 13 to 14, Biden will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the country, which includes billions of dollars in military support. He will hold a virtual summit with the leaders of Israel, India and the United Arab Emirates.

The US official said Biden would also travel to the West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders to confirm his commitment to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s office said in a statement that the visit would help “incorporate Israel into the Middle East.”

Saudi Arabia has indicated its support for the so-called Ibrahim Accords, under which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established relations with Israel two years ago. But Riyadh has not officially recognized neighboring Israel.

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(Reporting by Garrett Renshaw) Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Doina Chiaco, Susan Heffy and Alexander Cornwell; Writing by Michelle Nichols and Humira Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Otis and Rosalba O’Brien

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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