President Joe Biden laid out his vision for the United States’ role in the Middle East at a summit in Saudi Arabia with Gulf state leaders on Saturday, the final day of his four-day trip through the region.
The vision includes increasing regional food security, addressing the effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on energy markets and implementing stronger protections against human rights violations. It also includes strengthening a ceasefire between Iran-backed troops and Saudi-led forces in the seven-year civil war in Yemen.
Biden also announced $1 billion in food security assistance for the Middle East and North Africa in light of acute hunger in part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The United States is not going anywhere,” Biden said during the summit at a hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, NBC News reported.
Biden met with leaders of Egypt, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates before attending the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which included leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and UAE.
He also noted that he was the first US president to visit the Middle East since September 11, 2001, without US troops involved in a major ground war in the region. Since he’s wrapped up the Middle East tour, he is scheduled to fly back to Washington.
Critics of the Saudi trip had raised concerns about human rights violations, including the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi that US intelligence believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered.
Biden defended the trip to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying that if the United States doesn’t step up to assert its vision as a world leader it could result in a leadership “vacuum,” that could be “filled by Russia and China.”
On Thursday, Biden also met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid to sign a declaration to improve security and defences to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
On Friday, during a meeting in Jeddah, Biden said he told Mohammed that he thought he was personally responsible for killing Khashoggi. He greeted Mohammed with a fist bump ahead of their Friday meeting.
Biden also travelled to the West Bank on Friday to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas where he pledged support for two-state solution to give Palestinians their own country. He also pointed out that he has approved resuming about $300 million in US aid to Palestinians, which former President Donald Trump had largely cut off.
The four-day Middle East tour began with a visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center on Wednesday, where Biden vowed to work with the nation in continuing to fight anti-Semitism wherever it arises.
- A UPI report