Saudi Arabia: Biden to talk oil at Arab summit concluding Middle East tour

He plans to announce that the US is committing $1 billion in food aid to the region



By AFP

Published: Sat 16 Jul 2022, 1:44 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Jul 2022, 2:14 PM

US President Joe Biden is set to discuss volatile oil prices during a summit with Arab leaders on Saturday in Saudi Arabia, the final stop of his Middle East tour.

On his first trip to the region as president, Biden is also looking to outline his vision for Washington's role in the region in order to not cede influence to Russia and China.

He plans to announce Saturday that the US is committing $1 billion in food aid to the Middle East and North Africa amid rising food insecurity induced by the war in Ukraine, a senior official told reporters.

Saturday's meeting in Jeddah will bring together leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Biden landed Friday in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally he once vowed to make a "pariah" over its human rights record, and met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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The Al-Arabiya channel quoted a Saudi official saying the pair "addressed the issue of Jamal Khashoggi quickly" and that Prince Mohammed "confirmed that what happened is regrettable and we have taken all legal measures to prevent" a recurrence.

Prince Mohammed also pointed out that "such an incident occurs anywhere in the world", highlighting "a number of mistakes" made by Washington such as torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Biden appears keen to re-engage with US ally Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and an avid buyer of weapons.

Washington wants Saudi Arabia to open the floodgates to bring down soaring gasoline prices, which threaten Democratic chances in November mid-term elections.

But Biden on Friday tried to tamp down expectations that his trip would yield immediate gains.

"I'm doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America," he said, adding concrete results would not be seen "for another couple weeks".

Riyadh and Washington on Friday signed 18 agreements on areas including energy, space, health and investment, including developing 5G and 6G technology, said a Saudi statement.

Another statement said the two sides noted "the importance of their strategic economic and investment cooperation, especially in light of the current crisis in Ukraine and its repercussions, reiterating their commitment to the stability of global energy markets."

Saudi Arabia agreed to link the electricity networks of the Gulf Cooperation Council to Iraq, which relies heavily on energy from Iran, "in order to provide Iraq and its people with new and diversified electricity sources," the White House said.

A senior administration official said the Gulf bloc would commit $3 billion to a global infrastructure programme intended to counter China's Belt and Road Initiative.

"Russia is effectively making a bet on Iran. We are making a bet on a more integrated, more stable, more peaceful and prosperous Middle East region," the official said, in an apparent dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to visit Iran next week.

Beyond oil Biden said his focus on the trip was "positioning America in this region for the future".

"We are not going to leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill, and we're getting results," he said.


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