Biden Affirms Continued U.S. Engagement in the Middle East in GCC Speech

President Biden affirmed the United States’ commitment to remaining engaged in the Middle East in an address to Arab leaders on Saturday, capping his first visit to the region as president amid growing global instability.

“We are not going to walk away and leave a vacuum for China, Russia or Iran to fill,” Bided said in his address to the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia. “We will seek to capitalize on this moment with active, principled American leadership.”

The president’s remarks, in which he outlined the US framework for engagement in the region, followed a four-day trip to the region – Mr Biden’s first since taking office.

“A lot has changed since I’ve visited this region since I served as vice president,” Biden said, noting the end of the “eras of land wars in the region” that made evolve “an enormous number of American forces”.

Biden highlighted new challenges facing the region and the world in his speech, including the global effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

He also underscored the continued US commitment to keeping terrorism at bay, noting the recent US strike against a senior ISIS leader in Syria.

Mr Biden met individually with leaders from Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates earlier on Saturday, and invited Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates to visit the United States later this year.

The meetings followed Mr Biden’s closely watched meeting on Friday with Saudi King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bid Salman, who is the country’s de facto ruler.

Mr Biden said he brought up the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the start of his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed, who US intelligence officials believe orchestrated his death.

Khashoggi’s killing largely overshadowed Mr Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, where the president sought to convince the kingdom’s leaders to pump more oil, finalize a delicate ceasefire with Yemen and integrate Israel in the region.

Critics have strongly condemned Mr Biden’s meeting with the crown prince, accusing the president of sacrificing his commitment to human rights in an effort to lower gas prices in an election year. Mr Biden has often been reminded that he had sworn to make Saudi Arabia an outcast for its role in Khashoggi’s death.

On Saturday, Mr. Biden again underlined the United States’ commitment to human rights in his address to his counterparts in the Middle East.

“The future will be won by countries that unleash the full potential of their people,” he said, including allowing people “to question and criticize leaders without fear of reprisal.”

— Jeff Mordock contributed to this report

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