With Israel’s settlement in mind, US Secretary of State Blinken visits Saudi Arabia amid tense relations

JEDDAH. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken Saudi Arabia arrived on Tuesday on a mission to stabilize Washington’s relationship with Riyadh after years of deepening rifts over everything from Iran and regional security to oil prices.
Blinken is expected to meet with high-ranking Saudi officials, including the kingdom’s de facto ruler, the crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS, during stays in the capital Riyadh and the coastal city of Jeddah, which will be Washington’s second recent high-level visit. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan left for Saudi Arabia on May 7.
The June 6-8 visit by a top US diplomat to the world’s biggest oil exporter comes days after Riyadh vowed to further cut oil output, likely to strain US-Saudi relations, which have already been strained by the kingdom’s human rights record. because of the state and disputes of America. The politics of Iran.
The goals of the trip include regaining influence with Riyadh over oil prices, protecting Chinese and Russian influence in the region and fueling hopes for an eventual settlement of Saudi-Israeli relations.
Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group, on Monday, Blinken said Washington has a “genuine national security interest” in normalizing diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but warned that it would not happen. fast.
Encouraging closer ties between Saudi Arabia and China is perhaps the most important element of Blinken’s visit, said Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington-based think tank.
“(Blinken needs to explain) why China’s interests do not align with Saudi Arabia and why a closer relationship strategically precludes a closer relationship with Washington,” Goldberg said.
USA-Saudi. that Crown Prince Mohammed approved the operation to arrest or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018;
Biden’s visit to the kingdom in July 2022 did little to ease tensions, and increasingly Riyadh is trying to reassert its regional influence while showing less interest in aligning with US priorities in the region.
The most recent example was when MBS warmly embraced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Arab League summit in May, where Arab states welcomed Syria back after a decade of suspension, a move Washington said it neither supported nor encouraged.
The kingdom is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into transforming and opening up its economy to reduce its dependence on crude oil. The reforms have been accompanied by a number of arrests of MbS critics, as well as businessmen, clergy and human rights activists.
US citizens and family members detained in Saudi Arabia wrote to Blinken on Tuesday urging them to pressure Saudi officials to release their relatives immediately. The list included prominent cleric Salman al-Odah, the children of former intelligence chief Saad al-Jabri, human rights defender Mohammed al-Qahtani and aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadan.
The kingdom has released detained US citizens from prisons, but some remain under a travel ban.
U.S. officials briefing reporters last week said there was an “ongoing conversation with Saudi Arabia about promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms,” but they declined to say whether Blinken would seek any assurances from the Saudis on that issue.

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