Joe Biden leaves Saudi Arabia after highly controversial visit

US President Joe Biden concluded his first tour of the Middle East on Saturday after a very controversial visit to Saudi Arabia, where he tried to reaffirm the influence of the United States, but which will remain above all as an image of his meeting with the crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman, known as “MBS”.

The 79-year-old US president began his tour of the region on Wednesday with a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories before traveling to Saudi Arabia to attend a summit that will bring together the six members of the Council in Jeddah (west). United States (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain), as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

In a speech to an audience of Arab leaders on Saturday, Biden vowed his country would “not walk away” from the Middle East, leaving “a void that could be filled by China, Russia or Iran.”

Criticized for his visit to the Gulf monarchy accused of serious human rights violations, he stated that “the future belongs to countries (…) whose citizens can question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisals.”

“Integration, interconnection. These are the fundamental themes of our meeting,” he said.

“Tragedy for Saudi Arabia”

The Biden administration says it wants to promote a new “vision” for the Middle East, based on dialogue and economic and military cooperation.

In the context of the normalization process between Israel and certain Arab countries, in which Washington would also like to involve Saudi Arabia, Biden praised Riyadh’s “historic” decision to open its airspace to “all airlines”, including the Israelis.

But shortly after his departure, the Saudis tried to temper an announcement that “has nothing to do with diplomatic ties” with the Jewish state, according to the Saudi foreign minister.

For Prince Faisal ben Farhane, it is only about “ensuring a connection between the different countries of the world” and is “in no way a prelude to any steps” towards normalization.

In a clear allusion to Tehran, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit soon, Joe Biden also promised that the United States would “not tolerate one country trying to dominate another in the region through military reinforcements, incursions and/or threats.”

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The trip, however, is marked by the image of the president exchanging a fist “cheque” with MBS, accused by US intelligence of sponsoring the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi in 2018. Joe Biden had also promised to treat the kingdom. as a “pariah” country.

The US president assured on Friday that he had mentioned this matter “at the beginning” of his meeting with the crown prince, in fact at the head of the wealthy monarchy, assuring that he had been “clearer”.

According to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, interviewed by CNN, MBS “explained on Friday (to Mr. Biden) that this was a tragedy for Saudi Arabia.”

He told him that “those responsible had been investigated, faced justice and were now paying for the crime,” Jubeir added, indicating that for the kingdom it was a closed case.

Several major US newspapers published the photo of the handshake between Joe Biden and MBS, while activists accused the US president of reneging on a few barrels of oil.

“All I Can”

The increase in the gallon of gasoline is a considerable issue a few months before the mid-term elections in the United States.

“I am doing everything possible to increase production for the United States,” said Joe Biden on Friday, who claimed to have held fruitful talks with the Saudis, whose concrete results will be seen “in a few weeks.”

Saudi Arabia and the United States have concluded 18 cooperation agreements in a wide variety of fields (space, finance, energy, health), according to a press release from the Gulf monarchy.

The US president, who has multiplied bilateral contacts, has also “solemnly” invited his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed ben Zayed, to visit the United States, after the icy relations of recent months.

The United States has also pledged $1 billion in support for “short-term and long-term” food security in the Middle East and North Africa.

And Washington has reached an agreement with Jordan to provide the country with financial assistance of 1.45 billion annually, from 2023 to 2029.

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