Biden defends upcoming Saudi trip as national security necessity

US President Joe Biden is slated to travel to both Israel and Saudi Arabia this coming week. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - United States President Joe Biden defended his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia in The Washington Post and pledged to give attention to human rights on his visit with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a meeting that has been widely criticised by opponents of the Crown Prince's policies.

"I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia. My views on human rights are clear and long-standing," the President wrote in the opinion piece published on Sunday (July 10).

He is slated to travel to both Israel and Saudi Arabia this coming week.

"As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and secure. We have to counter Russia's aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world," he said.

"To do these things, we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes."

Mr Biden is expected to meet with Prince Mohammed and Arab leaders of other Gulf countries to persuade them to pump more oil into the market to drive down gasoline prices in the US.

Mr Biden also noted he would be the first president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after decades of hostility between the Jewish state and Arab kingdom.

"That travel will also be a small symbol of the budding relations and steps towards normalisation between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to deepen and expand. In Jeddah, leaders from across the region will gather, pointing to the possibility of a more stable and integrated Middle East, with the United States playing a vital leadership role," the President wrote.

Some Democrats in Congress and human rights activists have complained about Mr Biden's visit, saying he was breaking a 2020 campaign promise to make Prince Mohammed a "pariah" on the global stage.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.