Washington and Riyadh agreed on the importance of stopping Iran from "acquiring a nuclear weapon", during a visit by US President Joe Biden, a joint statement said.

The statement covering the results of bilateral talks included a section on “Security and Defense” which said Biden affirmed the United States’ continued commitment to supporting "Saudi Arabia’s security and territorial defense, and facilitating the Kingdom’s ability to obtain necessary capabilities to defend its people and territory against external threats."

Saudi Arabia and the United States also underscored the need to further deter Iran’s interference in "the internal affairs of other countries, its support for terrorism through its armed proxies, and its efforts to destabilize the security and stability of the region," the statement said.

President Biden began his Middle east Tour by first visiting Israel, where in an interview he said he is willing to consider the use of force against Iran “as a last resort”, which was his first clear statement since assuming office that a military option remains on the table to stop Tehran from building nuclear weapons. He also emphasized that diplomacy to reach a deal with Iran is his priority. But his remark about willing to use force was probably meant to reassure Israel and Saudi Arabia, both opposed to a weak nuclear deal with Iran and vulnerable to a nuclear armed Iran.

Washington and Riyadh also stressed the importance of preserving the free flow of commerce through strategic international waterways such as the Bab al-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz in the joint statement.

Bilateral meeting between US and Saudi delegations on Jul 15, 2022

“The United States also emphasized the growing cooperation between the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and U.S. Fifth Fleet’s Task Force 59, which leads an expanding fleet of cutting edge, integrated unmanned surface vessels using artificial intelligence to improve maritime security and domain awareness in support of regional security,” the statement said.

The joint statement appeared to signal a new era of closer partnership between the Biden Administration and Riyadh. Relations were marred by the Biden’s critical stance toward the powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018.

Biden said on Friday he told the Crown Prince he held him responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, shortly after exchanging a fist bump with the kingdom's de facto ruler.

"I was straight forward and direct in discussing it. I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am," Biden said.

This seems to have put the matter to rest as far as bilateral relations are concerned, in which Biden is eager to get Riyadh’s attentive ear to boosting oil production and lowering gasoline prices that fuel inflation in the United States.

Both Iran and oil production are on the agenda of an Arab summit with the United States on Saturday, where other large Persian Gulf producers will be present. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates both are the only countries at this point that hold spare oil capacity and can compensate for any shortage triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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