During Biden’s visit, Riyadh and Baghdad signed a historic agreement on the sidelines of the summit to link the electricity networks of Saudi Arabia and the GCC states to the Iraqi grid.
Energy security and other regional sticking points topped the agenda during a joint meeting between the United States President Joe Biden and Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MbS.
Speaking to the press in Jeddah on Friday, Biden said the leaders discussed the GCC’s investment in the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment. Biden had raised the $200 initiative during a G7 Summit last month in an effort “to meet the enormous infrastructure needs of low- and middle-income countries”.
In a joint statement, the two sides highlighted the importance of strategic economic and investment cooperation, particularly in light of the Russian-Ukraine conflict and its unravelling economic ramifications. They also reaffirmed their commitment to working towards stabilising the global energy market, affected partially by the conflict.
Washington hailed Riyadh’s commitment to support global oil markets in balancing a sustained economic growth, with both sides agreeing to consult one another on a regular basis regarding the global energy market in both near and long terms.
Saudi Arabia has appeared to transform its status, from Washington’s perspective, from having “no redeeming social value” to being a “strategic partner” of the US, as Biden scrambles for energy securement amid drastically surging oil prices.
The spike in prices have partially pushed US’ inflation to a four-decade high of 9.1% in June, ahead of the crucial midterm elections in November.
The two sides also agreed to join efforts as “strategic partners” in climate and energy transition initiatives, acknowledging Riyadh’s leading role in the future of energy.
The much anticipated meeting between MbS and Biden has been making headlines due to the latter’s criticism of the crown prince for his role in orchestrating the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
During his presidential campaign, Biden had pledged to make the kingdom a “pariah” state, a stance which appears to have been abandoned as the Biden administration visits the kingdom and looks to preserve US global hegemony, penned Zaid Al Hamdan, Chairman of Armasite in an op-ed on Doha News.
Iran and national security
Biden stressed Washington’s continuous commitment in supporting Saudi Arabia’s security and territorial defence as well as facilitating the kingdom’s ability to obtain necessary capabilities in line of deterrence.
Iran was a topic glossed over between Washington and Riyadh as the former attempts to place a firm grip on Tehran, further isolating it in the region. The two sides underlined the significance in deterring Iran’s “interference in the internal affairs of other countries, its support for terrorism through its armed proxies, and its efforts to destabilise the security and stability of the region,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
However, a communication portal has been running between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with four rounds of discussions last year and a fifth in April witnessed, in a bid to restore diplomatic ties and diffuse tensions, especially regarding their respective stances on Yemen.
The cautious establishing of those relations comes as the US gradually forgoes the close-knit relation it enjoyed with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi during the former Trump administration.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said last week Tehran and Riyadh are interested in holding more talks.
“Our conclusion is that the negotiations have been positive. Both sides are interested in a continuation of the meetings,” Kanaani told a weekly press conference.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States stressed the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Claiming Iran’s alleged mission in obtaining a nuclear weapon brings instability to the region, Saudi Arabia recently opened its airspace to Israel, a regime in possession of nuclear weapons.
Saudi civil aviation authority announced in a statement on Friday “the decision to open the kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying”.
Tehran says enrichment is to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals for use in the country’s medicinal sector, slamming alleged claims of its development of a nuclear weapon.
In the joint statement, the two sides also reiterated the importance of preserving the free flow of commerce through strategic international waterways such as Bab Al Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz.
They also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s assumption of command of Combined Task Force 150, which instills shared maritime security objectives in the Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea.
Washington and Riyadh affirmed their support for the UN-brokered truce in Yemen and emphasised the necessity in extending the truce and fostering progress to transform the truce into a lasting peace agreement.
The two sides stressed their long-stated goal to end the war in Yemen, SPA reported.
The Yemen war, described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The conflict is fought between a Saudi-led military coalition, including the UAE, and the Houthi rebel group, which is backed by Tehran.
Both countries have welcomed the ceasefire.
The humanitarian crisis which put the life of almost half a million children at risk of dying of malnutrition was further exacerbated by the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade on all sea, land and air borders of Yemen.
The two sides re-confirmed their stance regarding a two-state solution, wherein a “sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state lives side-by-side in peace and security with Israel,” as the only viable means of resolving the Palestinian file in accordance with the “internationally-recognised parameters” and the Arab Peace Initiative, SPA said.
The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, drafted by Saudi Arabia, stipulates that member countries shall refrain from normalising with Israel until it fully withdraws from lands occupied in 1967.