Biden reassures Arab leaders that the United States is engaged in the region


  • Biden says the United States will remain committed to its allies
  • The United States hopes to integrate Israel
  • Saudi crown prince pushes back on human rights issue

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, July 16 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden told an Arab summit on Saturday that the United States would remain firmly committed to its allies in the Middle East and would “not go anywhere”. as he pushed for a regional security alliance that would include Israel.

Biden, who began his first trip to the Middle East as president with a visit to Israel, outlined his vision and strategy for American engagement in the Middle East.

He also sought to use the Jeddah rally to integrate Israel into a new axis largely driven by shared concerns about Iran.

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“We think it is very useful to include as many capabilities as possible in this region and Israel certainly has significant air and missile defense capabilities, as they need them. But we have these bilateral discussions with these countries” , said a senior administration official. official told reporters.

Biden focused on the planned summit with six Gulf states and Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, while downplaying a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This meeting sparked criticism in the United States over human rights violations.

“No country succeeds all the time, even most of the time, including the United States. But our people are our strength. Our countries with the confidence to learn from mistakes grow stronger,” Biden said. Read more

“So let me close by summing it all up in one sentence. The United States is invested in building a positive future in the region, in partnership with all of you, and the United States is going nowhere.”

Biden had said he would make Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ on the world stage following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in 2018, but ultimately decided that US interests dictated a recalibration, not a break. , in relations with the world’s leading oil exporter.

The US leader said he raised the Khashoggi murder with the Saudi crown prince on Friday and that the silence on the issue of human rights is “inconsistent with who we are and who I am”. Read more

The crown prince told Biden that Saudi Arabia had acted to prevent a repeat of mistakes such as Khashoggi’s killing, but the United States had made similar mistakes, including in Iraq, a Saudi official said . Read more

In a statement sent to Reuters about the two leaders’ conversation on Friday, the official said the kingdom’s de facto ruler had claimed that trying to impose certain values ​​by force on other countries could backfire.

Biden needs help from OPEC giant Saudi Arabia at a time of high crude prices and other issues related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and as he encourages efforts to put end to the war in Yemen, where a temporary truce is in place. Washington also wants to curb Iran’s hold in the region and China’s global influence.

FOOD SAFETY

During his meeting with Biden, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi discussed food security and energy supply disruptions, the Egyptian presidency said.

Relations between Egypt and the United States were rocky in the first months of Biden’s presidency amid differences over human rights, before Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire fire in Gaza in May 2021 does not lead to re-engagement.

A second senior administration official said Biden would announce that the United States had committed $1 billion in new short- and long-term food security assistance for the Middle East and North Africa, and that the Gulf States would commit $3 billion over the next two years to projects that align with US partnerships in infrastructure and global investment.

The Gulf states, which have refused to side with the West against Russia over Ukraine, are seeking concrete US engagement in strategic ties that have been strained due to the perceived US disengagement from the region.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have been frustrated by US conditions on arms sales and their exclusion from US-Iranian indirect talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear pact they see as flawed for failing to address concerns regarding Tehran’s missile program and behavior.

Israel, which shares its concerns about Iran, has encouraged Biden’s trip to the kingdom, hoping it would foster warming between Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of a broader Arab rapprochement after the UAE and Bahrain forged ties with Israel in US-brokered pacts that received Riyadh’s blessings.

Saudi Arabia said on Friday it would open its airspace to all air carriers, paving the way for more overflights to and from Israel.

A plan to connect air defense systems could be a tough sell for Arab states that have no ties to Israel and are reluctant to be part of an alliance seen as anti-Iran, which has built a strong network of proxies in the region, including in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

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Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan in Jeddah and John Irish in Paris, writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Michael Georgy, editing by Daniel Wallis, Jane Merriman, Frances Kerry and Timothy Heritage

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