Biden to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia during Middle East trip

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks to Gray’s Jon Decker
President Biden on Air Force One
President Biden on Air Force One(DC Bureau)
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 4:53 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The White House announced Tuesday that President Biden will travel to the Middle East from July 13-16 to attend the Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan (known as the GCC+3).

First, the President will travel to Israel, where discussions with Israeli leadership will cover security, intra-regional relationships, and other topics. Biden will also stop by the West Bank and meet with the Palestine Authority.

Then, Biden will visit Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

The Associated Press reports there is concern among human rights organizations and even some Democratic allies about the trip. For years, the Saudi government has been accused of using executions, torture and mass arrests to silence dissidents. U.S. officials also say Crown Prince Mohmmed bin Salman likely ordered the killing and dismembering of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khasoggi.

According to AP, critics argue meeting with Saudi leaders, without first getting commitments to improve human rights, “would send a message to Saudi leaders that there are no consequences for egregious rights violations.”

AP also writes: “But at a time of skyrocketing prices at the gas pump, growing worries about Iran’s nuclear program and perpetual concern that China is expanding its global footprint, Biden and his national security team have determined that freezing out the Saudis, particularly the crown prince, is not in the U.S. interest.”

Gray White House Correspondent Jon Decker asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about the goals of the Saudi Arabia trip. Below is a transcript of her statement (edited for length)

Jon Decker, White House Correspondent

“On the Saudi portion of the trips, I wanted to ask you about that, if I may. Is this a last-ditch effort, a Hail Mary attempt to lower oil and gas prices that we’re facing right now?”

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary

“So, look, while energy security is one important issue, it’s hardly the only one.  Saudi Arabia is the chair of OPEC-Plus, as you all know, and it’s the largest exporter.  Of course, we discuss energy with Saudi -- the Saudi government, and we welcome its -- its leadership in achieving a consensus amongst the group of -- to increase planned supply increases by 50 percent last week. But, look, Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly 80 years.  And there’s no question that important interests are interwoven with Saudi Arabia, notably the recent extension of truce in Yemen, which has saved countless of lives. So, there is an array of agenda, a long list of things to talk -- to -- to have a conversation about that’s going to be on the agenda. But as the President has said many times, he is -- he looks forward to leader-leader conversation and -- as it relates to having a strategic partnership.”

The Associated Press contributed to the report.

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