The American leader is heading to Saudi Arabia for Saturday’s GCC+3 Summit, where he is set to meet world leaders from the participating countries.
The US will be supporting an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, President Joe Biden told the press during his West Bank visit on Friday.
“The United States has suffered a loss as well, including the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. She was an American citizen and a proud Palestinian and she was performing very vital work of independent media and the vital work of democracy,” said Biden.
“The United States will continue to insist on a full and transparent accounting of her death and will continue to stand for media freedom across the world,” the US president added.
Standing alongside Biden, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas echoed the same sentiment, calling on Washington to hold the killers of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist to account.
The statements came shortly after the two leaders met as part of a regional tour that kicked off in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Palestinian journalists waited for Biden at the presidential headquarter in Bethlehem, wearing shirts saying “Justice for Shireen”, demanding accountability for the brutal killing of Abu Akleh.
Abu Akleh’s life-long colleague Givara Budeiri and fellow Al Jazeera journalist Nida’ Ibrahim were seen wearing the shirts during the joint press conference. Protestors also stood outside the presidential building, demanding justice for Abu Akleh.
The renowned journalist was killed by an Israeli sniper on 11 May while covering Israeli occupation forces’ raids of Jenin. The Israeli sniper has admitted to the crime though claimed the killing was “unintentional”.
A United Nations probe, as well as investigations by leading American media outlets also found Israel responsible for the killing. Despite this a US investigation said the killing was likely “unintentional”.
The family of Abu Akleh have also demanded a meeting with Biden during his Jerusalem trip, however the US president appeared to sidestep this and invited them to Washington instead.
Since announcing his visit to Tel Aviv, rights groups have pressed Biden to address the murder of the Palestinian-American journalist.
Meanwhile, a key topic highlighted during the joint press conference was the two-state solution, supported by both the US and Palestinian presidents.
Abbas called for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the apartheid state, which he said acts with impunity above international law.
“After 74 years of the Nakba, displacement and occupation, is it not time for this occupation to end?…We call for an end to the occupation and racial discrimination, and we look forward to efforts to stop settlements and settler violence,” said Abbas alongside Biden.
Abbas also called for the removal of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Washington’s “terrorism list” after adding it in 1997 as well as the reopening of the American embassy in East Jerusalem.
“We affirm our readiness to work with the US administration to achieve peace based on international legitimacy,” said Abbas.
Meanwhile, Biden stressed that Jerusalem should be open for all religions, saying it “is central to the national visions of both Palestinians and Israelis”.
“Throughout this holy land filled with so many places of significance to Muslims, Christians and Jews, we must all be free to practice our faith,” said Biden.
Earlier, the US president visited the Augusta Victoria Hospital where he pledged an additional $100 million package to support hospitals in East Jerusalem. Biden said the fund is part of a multiyear initiative that supports Palestinian health services.
Despite this, Biden expressed his pride in being a Zionist moments after he landed in the occupied land. Welcoming Biden on the tarmac, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid described the president as “a great Zionist” and friend of the occupying state.
“The fact is, you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist,” Biden echoed, while standing at the Ben Gurion Airport in occupied city of Lydd.
The meeting between Biden and Abbas comes hours before the US leader departs to Jeddah for a GCC+3 summit, scheduled to take place on Saturday in Saudi Arabia.