U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday (July 16) the United States would remain an active, engaged partner in the Middle East and urged leaders gathered at an Arab summit to see human rights as a powerful force of economic and social change.
Biden is seeking to start a new chapter in U.S. involvement in the Middle East, hoping to move past U.S. military conflicts and instead push for a region that respects individual nations’ domestic affairs but seeks economic integration and shared defences amid concerns over Iran.
Biden, on his first Middle East trip as president, has focussed on Saturday’s planned summit with six Gulf states plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq while downplaying a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
That encounter has drawn criticism in the United States over human rights abuses.
Biden had promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” on the global stage over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, but ultimately decided U.S. interests dictated a recalibration, not a rupture, in relations with the world’s top oil exporter and Arab powerhouse.
The U.S. needs the help of OPEC giant Saudi Arabia at a time of high crude prices and other problems related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and as he encourages efforts to end the Yemen war, where a temporary truce is in place.
Washington also wants to curb Iran’s sway in the region and China’s global influence.