WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden defended his intention to visit Saudi Arabia in a newspaper opinion article, saying that he had long backed reforms and wanted to "reorient but not rupture" relations with a long-standing strategic partner. He was prepared to visit Saudi Arabia despite criticism of its terrible record on human rights.
Biden cited changes in the Middle East, including rigorous diplomacy and military action against state-sponsored terrorism, that he claimed had rendered the region more stable and secure than when the Trump administration ended in the article published online Saturday night by The Washington Post. But given that some Americans wanted him to avoid endorsing the government with a visit, his interpretation of the Saudi relationship, in particular, came across as defensive.
Biden made the case that working directly with nations like Saudi Arabia may aid in advancing U.S. efforts to confront Russian aggression and Chinese rivalry. According to the president, he wants to advance a relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia "that is founded on mutual interests and responsibilities, while also keeping faithful to basic American principles."
The vice president added, "I know that there are people who disagree with my decision to fly to Saudi Arabia. "My views on human rights are well known and persistent, and when I travel overseas, as they will during this trip, as well as in Israel and the West Bank, fundamental freedoms are always on the menu."
It was noteworthy that Biden's opinion piece was published in the Post's Sunday opinion section. Jamal Khashoggi, the Post's columnist, was killed by Saudi operatives in 2018.
In response, Biden said he had imposed penalties on the Saudi forces responsible for the assassination and issued a number of visa bans for anyone discovered to be intimidating dissidents abroad. The president also mentioned that he had made public a U.S. intelligence assessment that claimed Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had given the go-ahead for the operation that resulted in Khashoggi's murder.
During his visit, Biden is anticipated to meet with the crown prince.
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