Kirby: President’s trip to Saudi not reaction to gas prices

U.S.

(NewsNation) — The White House announced that President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East next month, making stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.

The stop in Saudi is controversial since Biden once promised to make the oil-rich kingdom a “pariah” after the killing and dismembering of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. U.S. intel found that the killing came at the command of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

According to the kingdom, bin Salman and Biden will hold official talks during the July visit. The White House did not initially mention the meeting.

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby joined NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Tuesday to speak about Biden’s upcoming travels.

Kirby says Biden reinforces his administration’s commitment to human and civil rights when he’s having conversations with other world leaders.

“There’s not a discussion that the president doesn’t have with foreign leaders around the world where he doesn’t bring our values to the table. And it is very common and very typical, for him and for other leaders inside this administration, to raise our concerns about human rights when we were visiting with counterparts all over the world. That’s what friends can do. Friends can talk about some of these difficult issues. I don’t want to get ahead of specific items on the president’s agenda. But clearly, he will absolutely reinforce our commitment to human and civil rights,” Kirby said.

Kirby believes it’s important to note the scope of the strategic partnership the U.S. has had with the Saudis that he says goes back 80 years.

“I mean, there’s a long-standing relationship here that’s built on a lot of shared mutual national security interests, whether it’s counterterrorism, the threat of Iran, climate change, the war in Yemen, there’s a lot to talk about in the scope of this relationship,” Kirby explained.

With the trip, Biden administration officials say they are trying to reestablish their relationship with the kingdom, and getting the Saudis to boost oil production in hopes of bringing down gas prices in the U.S.

Republicans have called out the president for going to other countries, rather than doing more to boost energy production in the U.S.

Kirby defended the president, insisting the trip is not directly related to prices at the pump.

“This was a trip that honestly has been being planned for months and is not directly related to the price of gasoline here in the United States. That said, Saudi Arabia is a major oil producer, of course, and they are now sharing OPEC plus three, which has already increased … some production. So absolutely, oil production will be on the agenda when the president goes, but he’s going really in the context of the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council to talk about regional issues that affect all of us all the nine states that will be represented there and the United States, as well, as they said: counterterrorism, Iran, Yemen, climate change, and of course, energy is going to be on the agenda,” Kirby said.

Biden’s stop in Saudi Arabia could potentially shape his administration’s goals in the region over the next two years.

Before visiting Saudi Arabia, the president is slated to go to Israel and meet Palestinian leadership for what he says is a mission to promote peace in the Middle East.

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