The Latest on U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast:
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — President Joe Biden says he’s clear-eyed about challenges in the Middle East and the United States intends to stay engaged in the region.
Speaking Saturday in Saudi Arabia at a summit of Gulf leaders, as well as leaders from Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, Biden said: “We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran.” He added that “the United States is going to remain an active engaged partner in the Middle East.”
Biden is outlining the principles of his strategy for the region, focusing on regional cooperation to stand up to threats.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
President Joe Biden has invited the Abu Dhabi ruler who steers policy in the United Arab Emirates to visit the White House before the end of the year.
The two met on Saturday ahead of a wider summit in Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was unanimously appointed as the autocratic nation’s president in May following the death of his brother.
Even as crown prince of Abu Dhabi, he had long been seen as the force behind the UAE’s “Little Sparta” reputation for its outsized influence in policies that stretch from the Horn of Africa, through North Africa and beyond. Under his influence, the UAE became the first Arab state in more than two decades to normalize relations with Israel.
Much like Saudi Arabia, though, relations between the Biden administration and Abu Dhabi have been strained. The UAE has called on Biden to reverse a decision he made early in his presidency to de-list Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terror group. The UAE has been a party to the war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and spawned a humanitarian disaster.
Abu Dhabi was targeted by rebel Yemeni missile and drone strikes earlier this year. The attacks, which killed three migrant workers and targeted an area near a base that hosts U.S. forces, rattled the small country’s image as a bastion of stability and economic prosperity in the region.
Emirati officials were reportedly disappointed by the Biden administration’s response to the attacks. They are also wary of U.S. efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear accord and frustrated by some conditions on U.S. weapons sales. While the UAE is the first foreign customer of the Lockheed Martin THAAD anti-missile system, it has long sought U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-based DAWN rights group said one of its board members, who was also a close friend and lawyer to slain Saudi critic Jamal Khahshoggi, was detained while in transit in Dubai and taken to Abu Dhabi. The group says Asim Ghafoor, a U.S. citizen, has been detained since Thursday on murky charges of “money laundering.”
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi citizens will soon be able to obtain 10-year visitor visas, double the current validity, in an agreement during U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia announced Saturday the agreement extends the validity of visitor visas for Saudi citizens from five years to a decade as of August 1.
The announcement said travel contributes significantly to both of countries’ economies and strengthens ties between citizens.
Biden is on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia that began on Friday with a meeting with King Salman. That was followed by a highly-watched face-to-face meeting with the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The two fist-bumped one another as they met for the first time during Biden’s presidency.
Biden said he raised the issue of human rights in his meeting with the prince, but stressed that the visit’s aim is to reassert U.S influence in the region.
The Saudis say 18 cooperation agreements and memorandums were signed by the two delegations late Friday, including an accord with NASA allowing Saudi Arabia to undertake the joint exploration of the moon and Mars in cooperation with the American space agency.
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — U.S. President Joe Biden met with Egypt’s president in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office in 2021.
Biden was heard thanking President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for Egypt’s role in a ceasefire to Israel’s war with Hamas last year in the Gaza Strip, an acknowledgement of Cairo’s role in the region.
Egypt’s president, who came to power following mass protests and a military takeover that ousted the divisive Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, is facing an economic crisis as inflation from rising fuel and food prices hits the Arab world’s most populous nation particularly hard. Around a third of Egypt’s 103 million people live in poverty.
Although the former military strongman has been credited with stabilizing Egypt’s economy following several years of political turmoil, the country is among the world’s largest importers of wheat, with much of that from now-blocked Ukrainian ports.
Meanwhile, el-Sissi’s government has not hesitated to deploy brute force while jailing thousands of people, mainly Islamists, but also secular activists in an effort to quash dissent.
In recent months, his government released hundreds of detainees and embarked on a so-called national dialogue with various groups, but the government continues to hold many high profile detainees, including pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah. Egyptian security forces have been accused of torturing detainees, including concerns economist Ayman Hadhoud was among those beaten to death while in police detention this year.
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — President Joe Biden began his final day in Saudi Arabia by meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who survived an assassination attempt with explosive drones last year.
Some in the country have blamed the attack Iranian-backed factions. It came amid soaring tensions and a stand-off between Iraqi security forces and pro-Iran Shiite militias over election results.
Biden said he wanted to support Iraq’s democracy.
“I want the press and you to know we want to be (as) helpful as we can in doing that,” he said.
Al-Kadhimi spoke about the “strategic, friendly relationship” between the U.S. and Iraq, and he thanked the U.S. for providing support to combat terrorist groups.
An estimated 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq to support the country’s fight against the Islamic State.
Biden is in Jeddah attending a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The leaders of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan are also attending.