Jul 13, 2022 - World

GCC countries express some optimism ahead of Biden's Saudi visit

GCC leaders in Riyadh on Dec. 14, 2021. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
GCC leaders in Riyadh on Dec. 14, 2021. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

ABU DHABI, UAE —The Gulf region is expressing some optimism for President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week.

Driving the news: Biden on Saturday will meet with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq and Jordan (known as the GCC+3). This forum has added an extra dimension to the GCC’s influence, and the meeting is significant for both Gulf and U.S. interests.

What to expect: There are plenty of areas of common interest and where progress can be made.

  • At the meeting, the GCC countries — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE — are expected to discuss prioritizing defense matters, countering Iran, and solidifying support for the Yemen war truce, as well as exploring economic initiatives with the U.S.
  • Cybersecurity, as well as the development of a regionally integrated air defense system, is also expected to be discussed.
  • Although the chances of a new nuclear deal with Iran appear to be low, the GCC countries hope that any return to the deal will also include Iran’s ballistic missile and drone threat.

The big picture: Continued support from the U.S.-led effort to end the war in Yemen will also be a key issue.

  • While global energy security and high oil prices will be on the agenda during Biden’s visit, investment in clean energy, such as solar, would also be a priority for Gulf countries, which have set targets for net-zero carbon emissions.
  • Generating fresh momentum towards progress on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is also an important area for Gulf countries in terms of fostering stability. Jordan’s King Abdullah said he wants it to top the agenda during Biden’s visit.

What they're saying: Lana Nusseibeh, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the UN and assistant minister for political affairs, told Axios that Biden's visit comes at a time when there are new, positive dynamics in the region that have the potential to create more stability and security.

  • “The Abraham Accords have spurred a wave of positive diplomatic energy for peace and co-existence," Nusseibeh said.
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