Tel Aviv US President Joe Biden plans to visit Saudi Arabia in July, thus changing his previous line. He had described the country as a “pariah state” because of the brutal assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi during the US election campaign.
The New York Times quotes foreign policy experts as saying that with the phrase “real politics triumphs over moral outrage.” If Saudi Arabia produces more oil, it will at least partially compensate for the loss of Russian oil supplies and help stabilize energy markets, which could counteract inflationary trends in the United States. As Biden and Democrats face growing voter anger over high prices, raising energy prices has become a political issue.
The details of Biden’s trip to Riyadh have not yet been officially announced. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has already made two prepayments, showing his interest in putting relations with the United States on a new footing. Saudi Arabia this week received permission from OPEC members to increase production. At the same time, the kingdom agreed to extend the ceasefire in Yemen by two months.
In Washington, reactions to the two advances were almost overwhelming. The White House praised Saudi Arabia for its positive role in OPEC countries in pumping more oil. Biden also praised the Saudis for agreeing to extend the ceasefire in the eight-year war against the Houthis in Yemen, Iran’s aide. Saudi Arabia is “an important partner for the United States in the fight against extremism in the region,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who specifically mentioned the challenges facing Iran.
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The bid’s trip to the Middle East should therefore not only send a signal to the oil markets. Given the Iranian threat, the United States is also interested in better coordination of regional defense.
Discussions on closer ties with Israel
According to Israel, the need to intensify cooperation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has already been discussed in negotiations between Jerusalem and Washington. This could also include the formation of a regional defense system to repel Iranian missiles and cruise missiles as well as drones.
Both Washington and Jerusalem hope that Saudi Arabia will also join the alliance. Blinken said this week that Riyadh could join the Abrahamic agreement. Human rights are still important, but “we address our entire interests in this relationship.”
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Shortly before, Israeli Foreign Minister Jair Lapid had let it be known that his country, along with the United States and the Gulf states, was working on a “normalization process with Riyadh”. However, he spoke of “baby steps” to dampen excessively high expectations.
The Abrahamic Treaty, signed under the auspices of former US President Donald Trump, established normal diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. They would hardly have dared to establish diplomatic relations with Israel without Riyadh’s approval.
While there are no official diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, reports of unofficial contacts are piling up. Bin Salman sees Israel as a “strategic partner” in the fight against Iranian influence in the region, say observers in Jerusalem who trust US diplomats. But Riyadh is also interested in doing business with the high-tech nation, like the Emirates and Bahrain.
Dozens of representatives of Israeli tech entrepreneurs and businessmen are said to have recently flown to Saudi Arabia to negotiate Saudi investments in Israeli companies and Israeli investment funds, the business newspaper Globes reported a week ago.
It is currently not certain whether the 79-year-old Biden, whose travel plans currently include Spain and Germany in addition to Riyadh, will also visit Israel. Diplomats in Jerusalem say his decision will depend on whether the divided coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett survives the next few weeks.
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