Saudi Arabia and US signal agreement on energy, regional security and Iran

Joint statement issued after meeting led by President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reaffirms ties

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The US and Saudi Arabia on Friday announced agreements on energy, regional security and Iran after length discussions in Jeddah led by President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a joint statement issued after more than two hours of talks, the countries said they “reviewed the historical relations and partnership” between them, and “emphasised the pivotal role” US-Saudi relations play in regional stability and prosperity.

They also “stressed the need for supporting governments in the region facing threats from terrorists or proxy groups backed by outside powers”, an oblique reference to Iran which the US, Saudi Arabia and other allies accuse of funding proxies in Yemen, Lebanon and other Arab states.

The two nations also reiterated their shared position on ensuring that Iran never acquires atomic weapons, as talks to revive a 2015 deal limiting Tehran's nuclear programme remain deadlocked.

Mr Biden, who is making his first trip to the Middle East since taking office last year, arrived in Jeddah on Friday after a visit to Israel where he signed a US-Israeli pledge with Prime Minister Yair Lapid to ensure that Iran did not gain nuclear weapons. He will take part in a summit with leaders of the Gulf Co-operation Council states and Egypt, Iraq and Jordan on Saturday before returning to the US.

US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters after meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on July 15, 2022. AP Photo

Energy and climate

On energy, the US said it “welcomed Saudi Arabia's commitment to support global oil markets balancing for sustained economic growth”.

The price of Brent crude reached $139.13 a barrel in March — its highest level in decades — following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, sparking fears of a global recession amid rising prices and food shortages.

Mr Biden said last month that he would push for Gulf states to increase oil output.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that he did not expect the kingdom to increase oil output.

He said such a move should be done “in the context of Opec+” which meets on August 3. The grouping of Opec members and other major oil producers includes Russia, whose oil and gas exports have come under western sanctions over its attack on Ukraine.

The joint statement also expressed the US's appreciation of Saudi Arabia's Green Initiative, the Middle East Green Initiative and the kingdom's pledge to produce half of its power needs from renewable sources by 2030.

Security

The US said it would withdraw its peacekeeping mission from the island of Tiran in the Red Sea, and welcomed Saudi Arabia's plans to develop its Red Sea coast for “tourism and economic purposes”.

Both nations welcomed the newly-established multinational Combined Task Force 153 to police the Bab Al Mandeb shipping channel in the Red Sea and curb the illegal smuggling of weapons to Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

“To improve and streamline the exchange of information in the maritime domain, co-operation between the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and Combined Task Force 153 will be enhanced in the regionally-networked co-ordination centre led out of the US Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain,” the statement said.

The statement also expressed Washington's appreciation of Saudi Arabia's decision to open its air space to civilian aircraft flying to and from Israel.

The decision was announced while Mr Biden was visiting Israel on first stop on his regional tour.

Other agreements announced by the US and Saudi Arabia included co-operation on 5G and 6G mobile technology and on cyber security.

Updated: July 16, 2022, 8:34 AM
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