Biden defends imminent visit to Saudi Arabia in op-ed

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WASHINGTON– President Joe Biden, preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia amid criticism over his poor human rights record, defended his decision in a newspaper opinion piece, insisting he had long supported reforms and sought to “redirect but not sever” relations with a long-time strategic player. partner.

In the Washington Post article published online Saturday evening, Biden highlighted developments in the Middle East that he said had made the region more stable and secure than at the end of the Trump administration, including intense diplomacy as well as military action against the state. sponsored attacks. But his framing of the Saudi relationship in particular has come across as defensive, especially with some in the United States demanding he does not legitimize the government with a visit.

Biden linked US strength and security to countering Russian aggression and competition from China, then argued that engaging directly with countries like Saudi Arabia could help advance those efforts. . The president said he aimed to strengthen a U.S.-Saudi partnership “based on mutual interests and responsibilities, while remaining true to core American values.”

“I know many disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia,” Biden wrote. “My views on human rights are clear and long-standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be on this trip, just as they will in Israel and the West Bank.

Of note, Biden’s op-ed appeared in the Post’s Sunday opinion section, whose writer Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents in 2018.

On the issue, Biden said he responded with sanctions against Saudi forces implicated in the killing and issued dozens of visa bans on anyone harassing dissidents abroad. The president also noted that he released a US intelligence report claiming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder.

Biden is expected to meet the crown prince on his trip.

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