The President of the United States, Joe Biden, said this Saturday (16) that the country will continue to be an active and engaged partner in the Middle East. Biden urged leaders gathered at the Arab summit to see human rights as a powerful force for economic and social change.
“The United States is invested in building a positive future for the region in partnership with all of you, and the United States is not going anywhere,” Biden told Arab leaders in opening remarks at the summit.
Biden is seeking to start a new chapter in US engagement in the Middle East, hoping to overcome the country’s military conflicts and instead seek to create a region that respects the internal affairs of individual nations but seeks economic integration and joint defense amid concerns about Iran.
Biden, on his first trip to the Middle East as president, focused on a planned summit Saturday with six Gulf states and Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, while playing down a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The meeting drew criticism in the United States over human rights abuses in the country, most notably the brutal killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi. US intelligence believes the crown prince is behind the murder, which he denies.
Relations between Egypt and the United States were also strained in the early months of Biden’s presidency amid human rights disputes, before Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire in Gaza in May 2021 led to a rewrite.
Biden says freedom of the press and democratic rights can lead to sharp criticism, but the ability to speak openly and exchange ideas freely is what drives innovation.
“Accountable institutions that are free from corruption, operate transparently and respect the rule of law are the best way to ensure growth, respond to people’s needs and, I believe, ensure justice,” Biden said.
Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia in hopes of brokering an oil production deal to help lower gasoline prices that have pushed inflation to the highest level in more than 40 years and eroded his numbers in the polls.
However, he will leave the region empty-handed and hopes that his diplomatic efforts will lead to the OPEC+ group increasing production when they meet in August.
“I’m looking forward to what the coming months have in store,” Biden said.
(Reporting by Yasmin Hussain; Editing by Jane Merriman and Helen Popper)