Jul 10, 2022 - World

Biden: Human rights on agenda during Middle East trip

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022 at the White House. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Human rights will be part of the discussions taking place during his trip to the Middle East next week, President Biden wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday.

Why it matters: Biden has faced criticism from some quarters over his planned trip to Saudi Arabia, where he expects to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

  • U.S. intelligence concluded MBS was responsible for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — an allegation Saudi officials reject.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said last month that he believed Biden shouldn't meet with MBS. "I wouldn't go. I wouldn't shake his hand," he said.

The big picture: Biden acknowledged the controversy in his op-ed, writing he knows "there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia."

  • "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 during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank," he added.
  • In the op-ed, Biden framed his trip to Saudi Arabia as a necessary step in positioning the U.S. to counter Russian aggression, succeed in competition with China, and achieve greater stability in the Middle East.
  • Biden wrote that his administration has "reversed the blank-check policy we inherited" from the Trump administration, noting the sanctions and visa bans issued against Saudi officials during his time in office.

What they're saying: "From the start, my aim was to reorient — but not rupture — relations with a country that’s been a strategic partner for 80 years," Biden wrote of Saudi Arabia.

  • "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," he added.

Go deeper: Democrats urge Biden to "recalibrate" U.S.-Saudi relationship

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