President Biden planning a broader Middle East trip

Biden leaves for Asia under Ukraine, N.Korea nuclear shadows
US President Joe Biden. (File photo: Jordan News)
US President Joe Biden’s planned visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel later this month have been postponed until July, several officials told NBC News on Friday. اضافة اعلان

The White House is now planning a broader trip to the Middle East next month, sources said.

The reason for the delay was not immediately clear. However, a US official said there were scheduling issues and that the Biden administration needed more time to plan the trip that will include stops in several countries. Dates for July have not been finalized as the White House is still waiting to hear back from the various host countries, the official said.

The White House declined to comment on the travel itinerary, and the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington did not immediately respond to inquiries late Friday.

Biden’s plans to visit Saudi Arabia came under swift scrutiny given the country’s human rights record and the president’s own past comments about the country. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to treat the country as a “pariah” following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

A group of relatives to victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks wrote to Biden this week saying that if he travels to the kingdom, he must raise issues of “accountability” over alleged ties between some of the hijackers and Saudi officials.

Yet Saudi Arabia, a close US economic and military ally, has traditionally been one of the first foreign stops a president makes in the Middle East. The Biden administration has found it difficult to avoid cooperating with Saudi Arabia given its major role in many of the top foreign policy issues confronting the Biden administration, including Israel-Palestinian tensions and the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden, asked by a reporter on Friday morning about reports of a trip to Saudi Arabia, said a stop was possible but that he was “not sure whether I’m going”.

“I have been engaged in trying to work with how we can bring more stability and peace to the Middle East. And there is a possibility that I would be going to meet with both the Israelis and some Arab countries at the time, including, I expect, would be Saudi Arabia… if I did go,” Biden said. “But I have no direct plans at the moment. We’re looking at it.”

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