US President Biden to visit Saudi Arabia next month
June 15 2022 12:47 AM
US President Joe Biden addresses a press conference at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Gla
(File photo) US President Joe Biden

AFP/ Washington

US President Joe Biden will meet with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman next month.
The White House ended weeks of speculation yesterday, announcing that Biden will travel to Israel, the Palestinian West Bank, and Saudi Arabia from July 13-16 - his first trip to the Middle East since taking office.
In addition to meetings with individual leaders in all three places, he will attend a regional Gulf Co-operation Council summit in Saudi Arabia.
Biden is expected to press for increased Saudi oil production, in the hope of taming spiralling fuel costs and inflation at home ahead of midterm congressional elections in which his Democratic party risks a drubbing.
John Kirby, a White House foreign policy spokesman, told MSNBC yesterday that oil production “ going to be part of” Biden’s discussions in Saudi Arabia.
But while the White House also confirmed that “energy security” will be a topic, officials stressed that the whole trip has broader aims.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasised that “this visit to the Middle East region culminates months of diplomacy,” as opposed to being driven by recent domestic political concerns.
Biden’s multiple leader-level engagements during the brief yet intense journey will demonstrate “the return of American leadership” to the region, a senior US official told reporters.
The tour starts with meeting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Israel, with emphasis on the US support for Israel’s armed forces.
Biden will also meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, likely in Bethlehem, the US official said.
Biden will stress “his lifelong commitment to a two state solution” for Palestinians and Israelis and restore US ties with Palestinians that were “nearly severed” under his predecessor Donald Trump.
The part of the trip that will make history - and generate the most chatter - comes last.
Biden’s flight from Israel to Jeddah will be the first by a US president from Israel to an Arab state that does not recognise the country. In 2017, Trump made the journey in reverse.
Once there, Biden will attend the Gulf Co-operation Council meeting with leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as being joined by the leaders of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, the US official said.
A priority for Biden will be maintaining the recently extended truce in Yemen,  the official said.
Biden will also join a virtual summit of the so-called I2-U2 diplomatic group of India, Israel, the UAE and the US, with focus on “the food security crisis” sparked by Russia’s invasion of major agricultural exporter Ukraine.

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