US President Joe Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday on his first visit to the Middle East since taking office last year.
He then had stops in the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, where Biden is meeting with Arab leaders at a summit of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
The visit comes amid global energy and food crises and high oil prices as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, unfinished negotiations over a return to the Iran nuclear agreement, a fragile truce in the war in Yemen and strains in US-Saudi relations since the murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Live updates (all times EDT):
During their meeting on the sidelines of the GCC+3 summit, US President Joe Biden invited his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to visit the United States later this year. “The leaders committed to continue to use their collective diplomatic standing to de-escalate and end conflicts elsewhere in the region,” read a joint statement after their meeting. The two leaders also discussed the truce in Yemen, global energy security and deepening security cooperation.
US President Joe Biden met with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, today in Jeddah “to reaffirm their shared commitment to the U.S.-Egypt strategic partnership, consult on a broad range of global and regional security challenges and advance the U.S.-Egypt relationship,” a joint statement said. “President Biden reiterated that the United States aims to continue to support Egypt in providing for its own defense,” the statement said. They also “emphasized their mutual commitment to a constructive dialogue on human rights” and agreed to meet again in the near future.
US President Joe Biden and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani met on the sidelines of Saturday's regional summit. According to a White House readout, “the two leaders also discussed Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup, and the importance of continuing to implement labor reforms in the lead up to this seminal event.” They also discussed Afghanistan, where Qatar represents US diplomatic interests.
US President Joe Biden met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain today on the sidelines of the GCC+3 summit in Jeddah. A White House readout of the meeting noted that Biden "underscored the United States’ appreciation for the longstanding strategic partnership with Bahrain," and "commended Bahrain’s expanded ties with Israel through the Abraham Accords."
The Biden administration on Saturday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s signing of the Artemis Accords, a US-led agreement aimed at establishing an international blueprint for moon and space exploration. “Artemis relies on a broad and diverse international coalition, working together to achieve an historic and ambitious vision for human space exploration,” a State Department statement said. Mohammed Saud al-Tamimi, CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, signed the accords on Thursday, making Saudi Arabia the 21st country to join the pact.
US President Joe Biden met with King Abdullah II of Jordan today in Jeddah.
In a joint statement, they "reaffirmed the enduring strength of the strategic friendship" between the two countries. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the summit of leaders of the United States, the Gulf Cooperation Council members, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan. Noting the historic partnership, both leaders cited the importance that Jordan plays in the region as a hub for cooperation and investment in infrastructure.
Biden announced the US' intention to enter into a new memorandum of understanding for assistance for Jordan, whereby the US would provide $1.45 billion per year, from 2023 to 2029. The MOU would support Jordan’s stability, and economic reform program.
Stressing their commitment to fight terrorism and the importance of the strong defense partnership, the two leaders said they aim for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, stability in Iraq, and called for the immediate withdrawal of Russia from Ukraine.
The White House published the remarks made by US President Joe Biden at the GCC+3 summit that was held today in Saudi Arabia. In his speech he mentioned China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific, Russia’s war on Ukraine and Iran’s regional activities. Marking the first visit of a US president to the region post 9/11, Biden recognized the American military and paid tribute to his son who was stationed in Iraq, Major Beau Biden.
He stressed on the US’ counterterrorism efforts in the region, highlighting that it will remain “an active, engaged partner in the Middle East” avoiding any opening for Russia, China, or Iran, concluding: “The United States is invested in building a positive future in the region, in partnership with all of you, and the United States is not going anywhere.”
He presented 5 principles for the US’ framework for the Middle East:
- Strengthening partnership with countries abiding by rules-based international order, securing needed supply of energy to meet the global demand, and promoting clean energy.
- Ensuring freedom of navigation in the Middle East’s waterways.
- Working to “reduce tensions, de-escalate, and end conflict” in the region.
- Building connections between the US and US partners while respecting countries’ sovereignty and independent choices.
- Promoting human rights and the UN Charter’s values.
US President Joe Biden met today with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Saudi Arabia. A joint statement was published focusing on the two leaders discussing commitments to strengthen their bilateral relationship and ways to ensure that “ISIS can never resurge.” They also touched on different regional issues, reaffirming the need of forming a new Iraqi government, key for the country’s democracy and economy. Biden further stressed on the need to have a “stable, united, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq, to include Iraq’s Kurdistan region.” Both leaders emphasized on the importance of promoting and working towards regional stability.
US President Joe Biden will be announcing a $1 billion in food aid assistance to food security for the Middle East and North Africa. The announcement will be made today at a summit with key regional leaders. Biden will also hold bilateral meetings with leaders from Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. Jake Sullivan, national security adviser spoke to reporters on Friday telling them that Biden’s meetings will include a wide range of issues, "from security to economics, to regional integration, to cooperation on the big global challenges of our time, to human rights and forcefully advocating for America's values and for the President's personal priorities."
1:28 a.m., July 16
US President Joe Biden will conclude his Middle East tour today with a series of meetings with Arab leaders on the sidelines of the GCC+3. He is set to meet United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. According to reports, talks will cover bilateral and regional issues, including countering Chinese and Russian influence in the region while reasserting US' position.
Biden said he raised Khashoggi's 2018 murder during his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who on Friday denied that he was personally responsible.
“With respect to the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the top of the meeting,” Biden said. "I made my view crystal clear.”
In February 2021, the Biden administration released a long-awaited intelligence report concluding that the crown prince approved the operation that killed Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and US resident. Biden told reporters on Friday that his killing was "outrageous."
“I just made it clear, if anything occurs like that again they’ll get that response and much more,” he said.
After meeting for more than three hours with the crown prince and other Saudi officials, Biden said he expects “further steps” in coming weeks from Saudi Arabia that could help bring down oil prices.
Biden said they held a “good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies.”
“I’m doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen. The Saudis share that urgency,” Biden told reporters.
Biden greeted bin Salman with a fist bump upon arrival at Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah. Biden had been scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with King Salman followed by "a working session with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Ministers," according to the president's official schedule.
Biden has landed in Saudi Arabia, where he is set to meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The US president will also attend a summit with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq on Saturday.
Amid record inflation in the United States, Biden is expected to press the kingdom to increase oil production. His visit also signals a shift in efforts to ostracize the kingdom's de facto leader over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. During his campaign for president, Biden had said the murder made the country a "pariah."
Biden is heading to Saudi Arabia from Ben Gurion airport. Israel’s president and prime minister were there, thanking Biden for his visit and commitment to “Israel’s military and political power” and wishing him success in Jeddah. According to Israel National News, “Ben Gurion Airport authorities published the last communication between the control tower and US Air Force One before the plane’s departure: 'Wishing his excellency President Joe Biden and Air Force One a safe and pleasant flight. We hope that your visit will bring more peace and prosperity to the entire Middle East. Shalom.'"
Biden and Abbas delivered a joint statement after meeting in Bethlehem in the West Bank. Biden stressed his support for the two-state solution saying that the best way to reach it is through “equal measure of prosperity, security, and freedom.” Besides the financial support that was announced in the run-up to the meeting, Biden paid tribute to Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shot dead presumably by Israeli forces in May. "She was an American and a proud Palestinian. She was performing very vital work in independent media. … Her death is an enormous loss in sharing to the world the story of the Palestinian people."
In his opening statement, Abbas touched on various topics, from Palestinian rights, settlements, violence, accountability, and justice for the death of Abu Akleh, he called on the United States to work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and end the occupation of the State of Palestine, and its recognition with east Jerusalem as its capital based on the 1967 borders. He further asked for the US Consulate to be reopened in east Jerusalem while asking to remove the Palestine Liberation Organization from the US terrorist list, adding, "We are not terrorists."
Biden is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday evening.
Biden arrived in Bethlehem in the West Bank for a scheduled meeting with Abbas. Biden briefly met with Abbas and is expected to announce an additional $200 million in assistance to the Palestinians, following an announced $100 million to hospitals serving Palestinians in east Jerusalem.
4:19 a.m., July 15
According to Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Biden’s visit to the kingdom is key to the American-Saudi partnership that will revolve mainly around energy, stability and regional growth. She stressed that the kingdom is seeking to achieve greater regional stability. Biden is set to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Friday aiming to boost the flow of oil. He said that he would not avoid talking about human rights.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government approved the foundations of a deal that covers the Tiran and Sanafir Islands, two Red Sea islands that would potentially lead for a Saudi normalization with Israel.
The White House announced $316 million in aid to the Palestinians ahead of Biden’s visit to the West Bank on Friday. According to reports, Biden will also announce "plans to ease access at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan." This comes amid of series of initiatives the Biden administration proposed in order to mend ties with the Palestinians. The Trump administration had severed ties and almost cut all aid. Biden will be arriving to the West Bank to meet with the PA President Mahmoud Abbas and visit a hospital in east Jerusalem.
Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation announced that they will open their airspace "for all air carriers," according to a statement. The move will allow planes from Israel to fly over the kingdom. Some US and Israeli media outlets had reported that this was a goal of Biden's trip to the region, as he pushes for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia previously said it would open its skies to Israeli planes back in 2020 after the signing of the Abraham Accords.
UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja said he met with Biden during the latter's visit to Israel. The Emirati diplomat attended the reception Herzog held for Biden. Khaja said that he looks forward to working with Biden to "realize the full potential" of the Abraham Accords, referring to the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Netanyahu said that his meeting now with Biden was a “warm, excellent meeting.” He stressed their deep friendship and Biden’s “truly unwavering” commitment to Israel. Netanyahu also praised Biden’s role in securing supplementary funding for Iron Dome and said that the America president “supported us in many areas over the years.”
Biden arrived at the Jerusalem residence of Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, for an official reception. Biden signed the golden guest book and paid tribute to Herzog's grandfather, who was the first chief rabbi of Ireland. During the reception, Herzog will award Biden with the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor.
Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu also arrived at the presidential residence, where he is set to meet with Biden. Netanyahu said he will make a statement to the press after the meeting.
In an apparent disagreement with Lapid, who preached for heavy sanctions against Iran and preparing a military possibility to threaten the ayatollah regime, Biden said today at a joint press conference Jerusalem, “I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way.” Still, Biden noted that there is “an ironclad commitment from the United States of America to Israel’s security.”
Lapid and Biden signed a few minutes ago the Jerusalem Declaration at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem. It emphasizes the extent of Israel and US strategic cooperation and the administration’s commitment to increase its security assistance to Israel.
Addressing the press after the signature ceremony, Lapid warned against the Iranian nuclear threat, noting that “the only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force. The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table.”
Biden reiterated his administration's engagement against Iran, saying, “we will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapon.”
The leaders of Israel, India, the United States and the United Arab Emirates launched their quadruplet Zoom summit, dubbed I2U2, which focuses on food security, fighting climate change and clean energies.
In his opening remarks, Lapid said that this forum is a model for all those who desire peace and prosperity, emphasizing that we now live in a new world with new challenges. The problems are local and solutions are global, he said.
A joint statement issued before the meeting read, “This unique grouping of countries aims to harness the vibrancy of our societies and entrepreneurial spirit to tackle some of the greatest challenges confronting our world, with a particular focus on joint investments and new initiatives in water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security.”
A short while ago Lapid and Biden finished their one-to-one meeting in Jerusalem, which lasted 50 minutes. After the meeting, Lapid said, "We are trying to build a coalition that we all need in the Middle East, and we talked about the Iranian threat in order to ensure that Iran won't have a nuclear weapon."
For his part, Biden said that the United States remains committed to Israel's security and safety, stating, “We talked about how important it was … for Israel to be totally integrated into the region and complete its integration. We are guaranteed — our administration, and I think the vast majority of the American public, not just my administration, is completely devoted to your security, without any if, ands or buts — without any doubts about it.”
The convoys of Lapid and Biden are both arriving now at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria Hotel. All streets in the area have been closed to public traffic until after the meetings. The two leaders are set to meet first privately. The one-on-one meeting will be followed by a broader meeting with delegations from both sides.
Ahead of his meeting today with Biden, earlier this morning Lapid held a preparatory meeting at his Jerusalem office with his senior staff and with senior officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
1:30 a.m., July 14
A senior US official says the Jerusalem Declaration, set to be signed later today by Lapid and Biden, will include the backing of the administration for continuing and extending the massive defense package Washington has been providing over the years to the Jewish state.
Referring to the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding the two countries signed in 2016, the US official said the joint declaration would “note our ongoing support for [the 2016 MOU] and support for extending it at an appropriate time.”
Israel's public broadcaster Kan is reporting that on the backdrop of Biden's visit, Israel is now considering enabling West Bank Palestinians to fly abroad through the Ramon airport in the south of Israel. If approved, Palestinians residing in the West Bank will no longer need to cross the border to Jordan to fly overseas. Rather, a shuttle system will be put in place with a security-check mechanism that allows them to arrive from the West Bank directly to the Israeli airport.
The idea was reportedly discussed last week at the meeting in Ramallah ahead of Biden's visit between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Biden told Israel's Channel 12 News that he is willing to let negotiations with Iran over a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement fail if it means keeping Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the US list of designated foreign terror groups.
The United States has made its offer and a return to the 2015 deal is now up to Tehran, Biden said. "The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons," the president said, adding that it was "a gigantic mistake” for his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, to pull out of the deal in 2018.
Lapid, who continues to serve as foreign minister after assuming the position of premier, met this evening with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Biden finished his visit to the Holocaust memorial. Wearing a black yarmulke, Biden tended the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance and laid a wreath on the slab under which ashes of extermination camp victims are interred.
After the ceremony, Biden then met two Holocaust survivors Rena Quint and Giselle Cycowicz, who immigrated to the United States after the war. He spoke with the two about 10 minutes, finishing by saying, ''God bless you both.''
A member of the US Secret Service, in Israel for the visit of President Joe Biden, was reportedly sent home from Israel after getting into an altercation with a woman. The exact nature of the incident was not revealed. A spokesperson for the Secret Service told CBS News that the agent was briefly detained by Israeli police on Monday but was released without charges.
Israel's President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid accompany Biden on his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. During his visit there, Biden will meet with Giselle Cycowicz and Rena Quint, both Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States after the war. Both women traveled to Israel especially for Biden's visit at Yad Vashem.
10:08 a.m., July 13
Biden's 43-vehicle convoy is making its way to Jerusalem after the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport and a tour by the American leader of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and the Iron Beam Laser aerial defense system, both located on the airport compound. In Jerusalem, Biden will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum this evening.