Biden in Saudi Arabia, seeking oil and normalization with Israel

Biden in Saudi Arabia, seeking oil and normalization with Israel

US President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah.

US President Joe Biden arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday, where he met with King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, believed to be the mastermind behind the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by US intelligence.

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Air Force One landed in Jeddah, western Saudi Arabia, after a direct flight from Israel, a first as Washington seeks to normalize relations between its two most important partners in the Middle East.

The American president, wearing sunglasses, was not received by his counterparts on the tarmac in Jeddah, but by the governor of Mecca, prince Khaled Al-Faisal, and princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud , Saudi ambassador to Washington.

But minutes later, Joe Biden drove to the royal palace in Jeddah, where he was greeted by a fist-check, waving greeting spread since COVID-19, by Mohammed bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, the powerful 36-year-old de facto ruler of the Saudi kingdom.

In Jeddah, Joe Biden met the sick and 86-year-old King Salman before a working session led by the young Prince Mohammed, a key figure on all issues, from oil to the military.

The meeting between Mr. Biden and MBS is the highlight of this Middle East tour, as Washington seeks to convince the Kingdom to open the floodgates on its oil production. At stake: lowering the price of a gallon of gasoline as the midterm elections in the United States approach.

But when; he was still a candidate, Joe Biden had promised to make Saudi Arabia a pariah, especially because of the 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi. Once elected, he had declassified a damning report on the prince's responsibility for this murder.

Saudi authorities have always denied direct responsibility for MBS in this murder.

Joe Biden's visit was particularly criticized by human rights advocates, with the powerful Gulf monarchy accused of serious violations, with a fierce crackdown on opponents.

Shortly before Mr. Biden's arrival in Jeddah, two announcements were made: Israel said it had no objection to the transfer of two strategic islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia then announced the opening of its airspace to all carriers, including Israelis, a historic decision for Joe Biden.

These two initiatives could, according to analysts, open the way to a possible rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a country which notably normalized its relations in 2020 with two Gulf countries allied to the Saudi Kingdom: the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

This is a first step, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, thanking Saudi Arabia for the step.

The Saudi announcement came ahead of Mr. Biden's unprecedented direct Tel Aviv/Jeddah (west) flight, the first of its kind from Israel to Saudi Arabia that does not officially recognize the Jewish state. His predecessor, Donald Trump, flew in the opposite direction, from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

On Saturday, Mr. Biden will take part in a summit of the leaders of the Arab monarchies of the Gulf which will also be attended by other Arab leaders.

An opportunity to push forward the normalization initiated by Israel with several Arab countries, with the aim of confronting Iran, which Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid did not fail to point out to him on Thursday.

Or , the Palestinian political class opposes normalization between Israel and Arab countries, as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not settled.

Saudi Arabia itself has said it is in favor of establishing official ties with the Jewish state on this sole condition, regularly denouncing the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian territories. .

A photo of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is placed on a chair, during a press conference of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Joe Biden, in Bethlehem, West Bank.

Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, Joe Biden visited Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian sector of the Holy City occupied by Israel, on Friday, where he announced aid of 100 million dollars to the local hospital network.

He then met Mr. Abbas in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. Demonstrators awaited him with banners demanding justice for Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American reporter, who the UN and Palestinians say was killed by Israeli fire.

S& #x27;he reiterated his position that the conditions were not currently in place to relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stalled since 2014, however he suggested that this impasse could not continue.

We will never give up working for peace. There must be a political horizon that the Palestinian people can at least see or feel for the future. We cannot allow desperation to mortgage the future, Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Abbas insisted on political measures to end, in his view, Israeli apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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