Biden Defends Saudi Arabia Visit Despite Khashoggi Killing

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The president repeated his assertion that the purpose of his trip to Saudi Arabia is instead a broader meeting with regional leaders in the Persian Gulf to discuss energy and security issues.

« The reason I’m going to Saudi Arabia is to promote American interests in a way that I think gives us an opportunity to reassert our influence in the Middle East, » he said.

The president’s trip to the oil-rich kingdom, where he will also meet the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, comes as the Gas prices have soared in the United States, peaking earlier this summer at a national average of more than $5 per gallon. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said last month that increased oil production would « absolutely » be a topic of discussion when Biden meets with Saudi leaders, as would « destabilizing » regional behavior. of Iran and the kingdom’s involvement in the ongoing war in Yemen.

Yet Biden has come under fire for his apparent about-face on Saudi Arabia, a nation the president once pledged to make a ‘pariah’ over, among other things, the murder of Washington Post reporter Khashoggi. and US resident who was dismembered. in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A US intelligence report released by the Biden administration said bin Salman approved the operation to kill Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Kingdom’s government.

Seeking to temper criticism of the Saudi trip, Biden administration officials met earlier this week with Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi. A rep for the widow would only say she met with “senior officials” — not Biden himself — but relayed the broader content of what was discussed.

Among his specific demands was to push for the release of all political prisoners held in Saudi Arabia, including their close friend, Saudi economist Essam Al-Zamil. She also thanked the president for advancing human rights issues and releasing the intelligence report on her husband’s death.

“It was important for Ms. Khashoggi to be able to express exactly what Jamal would have wanted if he were alive today, especially just before President Biden left for Saudi Arabia,” said his lawyer, Randa Fahmy. “This reunion is just the beginning of her long road to closure amid her grief. Part of that closure is also holding all parties accountable for the death of her husband.”

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