• Saturday, 22 June 2024
Joe Biden arrives in Israel ahead of thorny Saudi Arabia trip

Joe Biden arrives in Israel ahead of thorny Saudi Arabia trip

US President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel at the start of a landmark regional tour, which will include a controversial visit to Saudi Arabia.

It is his first trip to the Middle East since taking office. Mr Biden will also meet the Palestinian president as well as Israeli and Saudi leaders.

Palestinians have expressed frustration that the US has not done more for them since his presidency began in 2021.

But the main focus will be on his Saudi trip due to tensions over human rights.

Mr Biden has faced criticism over his planned meeting on Saturday with the kingdom's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was accused by US intelligence agencies of approving the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018. The prince denied the allegations, and Saudi prosecutors blamed "rogue" Saudi agents.

Mr Biden was greeted by Israel's president (left) and prime minister (right), as well as its former prime minister.

When he was campaigning for the presidency in 2019, Mr Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia "the pariah that they are" for killing Khashoggi, who lived in the US and wrote a column for the Washington Post.

Mr Biden defended his visit in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday, saying his "aim was to reorient - but not rupture - relations" with Riyadh.

The visit also comes at a time of rising oil prices, and energy production is expected to be on the agenda of the discussions between Mr Biden and Prince Mohammed, whose country is the world's biggest oil producer.

The president and his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, will attend a regional summit in Saudi Arabia, amid reports that the US is seeking agreement on closer defence co-operation between Israel and several Arab states - some of them old foes - to counter the threat from Iran.

Mr Biden will become the first US president to fly directly to Saudi Arabia from Israel, which is seen as a small but significant sign of Riyadh's growing acceptance of Israel after decades of boycott in solidarity with the Palestinians.

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