Biden lands in Saudi Arabia, country he vowed to turn into 'pariah'

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·2-min read
AP - Evan Vucci
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US President Joe Biden landed Friday in Saudi Arabia and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sealing a retreat from his campaign pledge to turn the kingdom into a "pariah" over human rights abuses.

Saudi state media showed images of Air Force One at the airport in the coastal city of Jeddah after a flight from Israel, making Biden the first US leader to fly directly from the Jewish state to an Arab nation that does not recognise it.

In 2017, his predecessor, Donald Trump, made the journey in reverse.

Biden, wearing sunglasses, emerged from Air Force One to walk down a purple carpet and be greeted by Mecca province governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal and Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington.

Later, the state-run Al-Ekhbariya channel showed Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto leader, greeting Biden with a fist bump and escorting him into a palace.

After he took office in early 2021, Biden's administration released US intelligence findings that Prince Mohammed "approved" an operation targeting journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate spurred global outrage.

Saudi officials deny Prince Mohammed's involvement and say Khashoggi's death resulted from a "rogue" operation, but it severely marred his reputation as a potential reformer.

Biden now appears ready to re-engage with a country that has been a key strategic ally of the United States for decades, a major supplier of oil and an avid buyer of weapons.

Washington wants the world's largest exporter of crude to open the floodgates to bring down soaring gasoline prices, which threaten Democratic chances in November mid-term elections.

Biden was expected to meet with 86-year-old Saudi King Salman before participating in a "working session" headed by Prince Mohammed, according to a programme distributed by Saudi officials.

(With wires)

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