Middle East

Biden discusses oil at Arab summit to conclude Middle East tour

#Biden #discusses #oil #Arab #summit #conclude #Middle #East #tour

US President Joe Biden is set to address volatile oil prices at a summit with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the final stop of his Middle East trip.

The meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second largest city on the Red Sea coast, will bring together leaders from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Biden landed on Friday in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally he once vowed to make a “pariah” of on its human rights record, and met with King Salman, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials.

Tensions between Biden and Prince Mohammed ran high, particularly after Biden’s government released US intelligence findings that Prince Mohammed had “authorized” an operation against journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018 sparked global outrage.

Biden now appears poised to reengage with a country that has been a key strategic ally of the United States, a major oil supplier and an avid arms buyer for decades.

Washington wants the world’s largest exporter of crude oil to open the floodgates to curb rising gasoline prices that are threatening Democrats’ chances in November’s midterm elections.

– human rights –

But Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, quashed expectations of immediate progress while speaking to reporters on the flight to Jeddah.

“I don’t think you should expect any specific announcement bilaterally here,” he said.

“We believe any further action taken to ensure there is enough energy to protect the health of the global economy will be done in the context of OPEC+,” Sullivan said, referring to the broader bloc of oil producers .

The summit will allow Biden to “set out clearly and substantively his vision and strategy” for US engagement in the Middle East, he added.

Biden said his trip “allows America to once again position America for the future in this region.

“We will not leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill,” he said.

Biden has been under pressure to discuss the cases of Khashoggi as well as Saudis being jailed as part of what critics of Prince Mohammed have called a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Late Friday, Biden said he addressed Khashoggi’s killing “at the forefront of the meeting” with Prince Mohammed and “made it clear that if something like this happens again, you’ll get that answer and more.”

While in Israel, he told reporters his motives for visiting Saudi Arabia were “broader” than human rights.

“My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely, positively clear and I have never stopped speaking about human rights.”

– Israeli Relations –

Such comments disappointed relatives of detained Saudis, including some with US citizenship.

“I’m not very optimistic about the visit just because past incidents prove that those in power in Saudi Arabia can do whatever they want and there will be no consequences,” Sarah al-Haider said.

Her brother, US citizen Salah al-Haider, was held for nearly two years on suspicion of terrorist offenses and remains subject to a travel ban despite being released last year.

Also on Friday, dozens of British and US lawmakers called on Biden to discuss Egypt’s “broad repressive architecture” in talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

White House officials have used the trip to promote integration between Israel and the Arab nations.

The issue of the strategically important islands of Tiran and neighboring Sanafir in the Red Sea is also expected to be on Saturday’s agenda.

Egypt ceded the islands to Saudi Arabia in 2016, but the deal requires Israel’s green light — a move that could boost contacts between the Jewish state and Riyadh.

Biden said Friday a decades-old multinational peacekeeping force, including US troops, would leave Tiran, and the White House added they would leave by the end of the year.

Saudi Arabia has refused to join the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which created links between Israel and two of the kingdom’s neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in 2020.

Riyadh has repeatedly said it will uphold the Arab League’s decades-old position of not establishing official relations with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

But it is showing signs of greater openness to Israel, announcing on Friday it would lift overflight restrictions on planes traveling to and from Israel, a move Biden called “historic.”

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid further said: “This is the first official step towards normalization with Saudi Arabia.”

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