Joe Biden On Saturday, he defended his decision to travel to Saudi Arabia, saying human rights would be on his agenda, as he provided an initial glimpse into a trip during which he aims to restore relations with the crown prince, who he had previously denounced as a pariah.
The US president will hold bilateral talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his leadership team, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. visit him to the Middle East next week.
Prince Mohammed, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, is believed to be behind the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist and political dissident Jamal Khashoggi, according to the US intelligence community.
In a comment published in the Washington Post late Saturday, Biden said his goal is to reorient, not sever ties with a country that has been a strategic partner of the United States for 80 years.
“I know there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia,” Biden wrote. “My views on human rights are clear and outdated, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad.”
Biden needs the help of oil-rich Saudi Arabia at a time of rising gasoline prices and is encouraging efforts to end the war in Yemen after the Saudis recently extended a ceasefire there. The United States also wants to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East and China’s global influence.
Biden argued that Saudi Arabia recently helped restore unity among the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, fully supported the truce in Yemen and is stabilizing oil markets with other OPEC producers.
Biden said he would be the first president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, next week, which he said would be a small symbol of “emerging relations and steps toward normalization” between Israel and the Arab world.
“I will be the first president to visit the Middle East since 9/11 without the participation of US forces in a combat mission there,” Biden said. “My goal is to keep it that way.”
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