Joe Biden asserted Washington’s determination to resume its active role in the Middle East in a press conference Friday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after his meeting with crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He said: “This trip is about once again positioning America in this region for the future. We are not going to leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill. And we’re getting results.”
Biden was asked several questions about his attitude concerning the 2018 murder of dissident Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly on orders of Mohammed bin Salman.
Biden said: “I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly: For an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights, is this consistent with — inconsistent with who we are and who I am? I’ll always stand up for our values.”
‘What a silly question’
Asked ‘how he could be sure that another incident, another murder like Jamal Khashoggi’s won’t happen again?’, Biden replied:
“God love you. What a silly question. How could I possibly be sure of any of that? I just made it clear if anything occurs like that again, they’ll get that response and much more.”
Biden then made a reference to his criticism of Chinese president Xi Jinping over an issue of ‘slave labour’, in an attempt to underline that he has not remained silent on cases of human rights violations.
“Look, you’ve heard me say before — and when I criticised Xi Jinping for slave labour and what they’re doing in the — in the western mountains of China, and they said I had no right to criticise China. And I said, ‘Look, I am President of the United States of America. For the United States President to remain silent on a clear violation of human rights is totally inconsistent with who we are, what we are, and what we would do, what we believe.’ And so I’m not going to remain silent.”
He then added, coming back to the reporter’s question:
“Can I predict anything is going to happen, let alone here, let alone in any other part of the world? No. But I don’t know why you’re all so surprised the way I react. No one has ever wondered did I mean what I say. The question is I sometimes say all that I mean.”