Biden hopes for more oil and Israeli integration at Arab summit in Saudi

US President Joe Biden meets with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia on Saturday seeking to persuade Washington’s Gulf allies to pump more oil and to integrate Israel in the region as part of a new axis largely driven by shared concerns over Iran.

Biden, on the second leg of his first Middle East trip as president, has focused on the planned summit with six Gulf states and Egypt, Jordan and Iraq while downplaying meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a move that has drawn criticism in the United States over human rights abuses, Reuters reports.

Biden had promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” on the global stage over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, but ultimately decided U.S. interests dictated a recalibration, not a rupture, in relations with the world’s top oil exporter and Arab powerhouse.

Biden needs Saudi help at a time of high crude prices and other problems related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and as he encourages efforts to end the Yemen war, where a temporary truce is in place. Washington also wants to curb Iran’s sway in the region and China’s global influence.

The US president will hold bilateral talks with the leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq before taking part in the wider summit where he will “lay out clearly” his vision and strategy for America’s engagement in the Middle East, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.

“He’s intent on ensuring that there is not a vacuum in the Middle East for China and Russia to fill,” Sullivan said.

Biden will discuss energy supplies with Gulf oil producers, but Washington said it does not expect OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia to boost oil output immediately and will await the outcome of an OPEC+ meeting on Aug. 3.

Gulf states, who have refused to side with the West against Russia in the Ukraine conflict, are in turn seeking a concrete commitment from the United States to strategic ties that have been strained over perceived US disengagement from the region.

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