US President Joe Biden told Arab leaders on Saturday that the United States would remain an effective partner in the Middle East, but he did not commit to a regional security center that would include Israel or immediately increase oil production.
“The United States is investing in building a positive future for the region in partnership with all of you,” Biden said, according to a transcript of his speech.
Biden, who embarked on his first tour of the Middle East since taking office, outlined his vision and strategy for the US role in the Middle East.
But the summit’s final declaration was ambiguous, and Saudi Arabia, the United States’ most important Arab ally, dashed Washington’s hopes that the summit would help lay the groundwork for a regional security alliance that includes Israel to counter the threats. iranians.
Leaders participating in the summit underlined the importance of taking all necessary measures to maintain security in the Middle East and the importance of achieving stability in the energy market, and commended OPEC+’s efforts to achieve this goal and the “leading” role of the Saudi Arabia in this area.
The statement also emphasized the need for the international community to step up efforts to achieve a peaceful solution in Ukraine and the importance of promoting grain exports and supporting food security in war-affected countries.
The final statement said the leaders who attended the summit expressed their support for finding a diplomatic solution to Egypt’s water security and the process of filling and operating Ethiopia’s dam.
Biden’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also proved highly sensitive, as the president raised the issue of human rights and sought to integrate Israel into a new axis fueled largely by concerns about Iran.
“We believe that mobilizing as many capabilities as possible in this region is of great importance and of course Israel has significant air and missile defense capabilities as per its needs,” said a senior government official.
It may be difficult to push forward a plan to link air defense systems to Arab countries that have no ties to Israel and refuse to join an alliance being considered against Iran, which has a strong network of proxies in the region, including Iraq. . Lebanon and Yemen.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Saturday that he was not aware of any discussions about a defense alliance between the Gulf and Israel and that Saudi Arabia was not involved in any such negotiations.
He told reporters after the Arab-American summit that Riyadh’s decision to open its airspace to all airlines had nothing to do with establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and was not a precursor to further steps.
During the tour, Biden focused on the summit, which brought him together with the leaders of six Gulf countries, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, but downplayed the importance of his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The interview sparked criticism of human rights abuses in the United States.
Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a global pariah for the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi intelligence agents, but ultimately decided that American interests demanded a recalibration, not a rupture, in relations with the world’s biggest oil exporter. .
A Saudi minister said the crown prince told Biden that Saudi Arabia had acted to avoid mistakes like the killing of Khashoggi, but that the United States had also made mistakes like what happened in Iraq.
Biden exchanged fists with Prince Mohammed on Friday but said he told him he was responsible for Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The president raised the issue … the crown prince replied that this is a painful episode for Saudi Arabia and that it was a big mistake,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
According to him, the defendants were taken to court and sentenced to prison.
US intelligence agencies believe the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder, which he denies.
About Friday’s meeting, al-Jubeir told Reuters that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had said that trying to impose certain values on other countries could backfire.
The talks highlighted tensions that have plagued Washington and Riyadh, its closest Arab ally, over issues such as the Khashoggi assassination, oil prices and the war in Yemen.
Biden needs help from Saudi Arabia amid rising oil prices and other issues related to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, as he pushes for an end to the war in Yemen after a temporary truce is reached. Washington also wants to limit Iran’s influence in the region and China’s global influence.
Biden arrived in the kingdom hoping to strike a deal on oil production to help lower gasoline prices, which have pushed inflation to a 40-year high and threatened his approval ratings in the United States.
He left the region empty-handed but expects the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and other allies, known as the OPEC+ group, to ramp up production at a meeting on Aug.
“I’m looking forward to the results in the coming months,” Biden said.
Another senior U.S. government official said Biden would announce that the U.S. would commit $1 billion in new short-term and long-term aid for food security in the Middle East and North Africa, while Gulf states would also commit $3 billion. in the next two years for partnership projects. in infrastructure and global investments.
The Gulf States, which have refused to side with Russia in the Ukraine conflict, are seeking tangible commitments from the United States in their commitment to a strategic relationship affected by what they see as America’s quest for liberation. Of region
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are frustrated with US terms on arms sales and have been excluded from indirect US-Iran talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, which they see as flawed for failing to address concerns over Tehran’s missile program and its actions. . .
Israel has encouraged Biden’s trip to the kingdom in hopes that it will promote warmth between Riyadh and Israel as part of a broader Arab rapprochement.
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