June 14 (UPI) — President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East next month with stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, the White House announced Tuesday.
The trip, scheduled for July 13-16, will end in oil-rich Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the president will work to repair relations after vowing to make the kingdom a “pariah.”
“From the earliest days of our administration, we made it clear that U.S. policy demanded recalibration in relations with this important country, but not a rupture,” a senior administration official told reporters. “And that is because we have important interests interwoven with Saudi Arabia.”
Biden is scheduled to meet with Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a summit of Middle East leaders where topics are expected to range from skyrocketing gas prices and inflation in the United States, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war in Yemen and a growing nuclear threat from Iran.
“He will also discuss means for expanding regional, economic and security cooperation, including new and promising infrastructure and climate initiatives, as well as deterring threats from Iran, advancing human rights and ensuring global energy and food security,” the official said.
The official also referenced the Biden administration’s 2021 intelligence report that concluded Mohammed approved the operation to murder American resident and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In one of his presidential debates, Biden promised to regard Saudi Arabia as “the pariah that they are.”
“Human rights is always a part of the conversation,” the official said. “The president is not going to change his views on human rights.”
Senior administration officials told The New York Times, when the report came out, that Biden is unlikely to directly penalize Mohammed for Khashoggi’s death because the price is too high.
Before flying to Saudi Arabia, Biden will make his first visit as president to Israel.
“In meetings with Israeli leaders, the President will reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and new areas of deepening cooperation in technology, climate, commerce, trade and other sectors,” the administration official said.
Biden will also travel to the West Bank to “consult with the Palestinian Authority and to reiterate his strong support for a two-state solution, with equal measures of security, freedom and opportunity for the Palestinian people,” before concluding his Middle East trip in Saudi Arabia.
“At bottom, the President believes strongly at this particular moment in the world with interests at stake for the United States and the American people, visiting Saudi Arabia for a summit of leaders from across the Middle East region to discuss how we move forward as partners is the smart thing to do at the right time and offers opportunity for significant gains,” the official said.