‘Reorient… not rupture’: Biden defends Saudi visit in column

US President Joe Biden has defended his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia amid criticism the trip represents a backslide in his administration’s commitments to human rights.

In an op-ed published late on Saturday in The Washington Post newspaper, Biden said the visit to the kingdom is important and assured the United States remains “strong and secure”.

He added that he wanted to “reorient and not rupture” relations with the oil-rich Arab nation.

Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is part of a wider Middle East tour from July 13 to July 16 that includes stops in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

“We have to counter Russia’s aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world,” Biden wrote.

“To do these things, we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes,” he added.“Saudi Arabia is one of them, and when I meet with Saudi leaders on Friday, my aim will be to strengthen a strategic partnership going forward that’s based on mutual interests and responsibilities, while also holding true to fundamental American values.”

Experts say topping the agenda during Biden’s stop in Jeddah will be a push for increased Saudi oil production in the hope of taming spiralling fuel costs and inflation fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said Saudi Arabia was already “working with my experts to help stabilise oil markets with other OPEC [Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] producers”.

He also hailed the kingdom’s support for the ongoing ceasefire in Yemen, where Riyadh has led a coalition fighting Houthi rebels since 2015, as well as Saudi Arabia’s role in ending the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis.

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