Biden hails Saudi’s decision to open its airspace to Israeli planes hours before the trip to Jeddah
president Joe Biden cheered Saudi Arabia‘s decision to open its airspace Israeli Planes in the hours before he would take Air Force One on a historic flight between Tel Aviv, Israel and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia’s historic decision to open its airspace to all civilian aircraft, including those flying to and from Israel, is an important step in building a more integrated and stable Middle East region,” Biden said in a Friday morning statement Statement from Jerusalem.
The move marked a long-standing ban on Israeli flights over Saudi Arabia.
The American President has made the thaw his own.
“While this opening has long been debated, it is now finally a reality thanks to months of steady diplomacy between my government and Saudi Arabia,” Biden said.
“Today I will be the first President of the United States to fly from Israel to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Former President George W. Bush had previously flown between Israel and the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Former President Donald Trump flew from Saudi Arabia to Israel on his first trip abroad as President.
“As we mark this important moment, Saudi Arabia’s decision can help advance Israel’s further integration into the region, including with Saudi Arabia,” Biden also said. “I will do everything in my power to continue advancing this groundbreaking process through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement.”
After spending Friday morning in east Jerusalem and meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Biden will fly to Jeddah, where he will meet with controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
President Joe Biden hailed Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its airspace to Israeli aircraft in the hours before its historic flight between Tel Aviv, Israel, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Air Force One
Air Force One will operate a historic flight between Tel Aviv and Jeddah on Friday after Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all civilian airlines. Before Friday, Israeli flights had been blocked. The president’s plane is pictured at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv on Wednesday
President Joe Biden is due to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured), the country’s de facto ruler, in Jeddah on Friday
biden on Thursday would not commit to bringing up Jamal Khashoggi’s murder when he meets with MBS, but the slain journalist’s widow says she has assurances the president will mention it.
Hanan Elatr Khashogi narrates FoxNews She met with three administration officials, who reassured her that “the human rights issue, and beyond that, my husband’s tragedy, will arise” when Biden meets the crown prince in Jeddah on Friday.
However, Biden dodged the question when asked about it during a news conference in Israel, saying his position on human rights had been “positively clear”.
“My views have made it clear in a positive way. I never stopped speaking about human rights,” he said when asked about the meeting.
Pressed again, the President said his position was “clear”.
“I always bring up human rights, but my position on Khashoggi was clear. If someone in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else doesn’t get it, they haven’t been there for a while,” he said.
And Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said the president must ask what happened to the journalist’s body, which was never recovered.
“He has to ask what happened to his body? where is his body We still don’t have an answer,” she told the Associated Press. “And people need to know the truth in this case. And we can’t forget.’
“We can’t forget what happened to Jamal.”
Jamall Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashogi, told Fox News she met with three administration officials, who assured her the murder of the slain journalist “will surface.”
Biden, 79, labeled Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state during the 2020 election campaign after US intelligence agencies concluded that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s muder in Turkey in 2018. The journalist had written critically about the reforms of the crown prince in Saudi Arabia.
The White House has said Biden stands by the statement but has also gone to great lengths to stress that the President is meeting with the aging King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his administration, which would include MBS, which is in the Age 36 is Salman’s heir apparent and serves as Secretary of Defense.
Biden’s meetings with the royals are on Friday night.
On Saturday he will attend the GCC+3 summit to discuss oil prices and energy issues.
“If I see the Saudi leadership tomorrow, I will deliver a direct message,” Biden said. “A message of peace and the extraordinary opportunities that a more stable, integrated region could bring to the region and, frankly, the rest of the world.”
However, the President argued that he would also restore US influence in the region to counter the growing power of Russia and China in the energy market.
“However, the reason why I am going to Saudi Arabia is much broader than promoting US interests,” he said at his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“I think we have an opportunity to reassert what I think we made a mistake in walking away – our influence in the Middle East. I will meet with nine other heads of state. There are so many issues at stake. I want to make it clear that we can continue to be leaders in a region and not create a vacuum,” he said.
He also made it clear that he wants to counteract the growing Russian and Chinese influence.
Russia is the second largest energy producer in the world after Saudi, and China is a huge energy consumer and buyer.
“The vacuum will be filled by China or Russia – against the interests of Israel and the United States. The purpose of the visit is to coordinate with the nine heads of state,” he said.
President Biden said his position on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi (above) was “clear”: “I always bring up human rights, but my position on Khashoggi was clear. If someone in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else doesn’t get it, they haven’t been there for a while,” he said
Human rights activists have encouraged Biden not to make the trip without raising the issue of Khashoggi’s murder.
Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, said a national security official told her that Biden would mention her late husband’s name when he met with MBS.
“They have assured me that they will specifically raise this concern about my husband Jamal Khashoggi’s case,” she said Spectrum News.
Biden will be closely monitored for his words, actions and body language when in the same room as the crown prince.
The White House hasn’t said if Biden will shake hands with MBS — a photo opportunity the prince would love but would cause a headache for the president among Democrats angry at Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.
Officials initially said Biden would not shake hands on his four-day trip to the Middle East, indicating a surge in COVID cases — rather than upcoming interactions with the controversial Saudi crown prince — that sparked the decision.
However, Biden began shaking hands with Israeli officials almost immediately after landing outside Tel Aviv on Wednesday.