Senior US official planning visit to region next week, including stop in Saudi Arabia

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US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, is preparing to make his first trip to the Middle East next week, sources familiar with the visit said Wednesday.

Sullivan will make stops in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to a report first published by Axios.

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The trip to Saudi Arabia comes at a time when bilateral ties between Washington and Riyadh have soured as a result of Biden’s efforts to “recalibrate” the relationship since taking office.

Sullivan will also be the highest-ranking US official to visit Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was scheduled to make a trip to the Kingdom while on a tour of the region earlier this month. However, his trip was postponed at the last minute due to what Washington said were “scheduling” issues.

The White House did not confirm or deny details of Sullivan’s trip.

Last week, the US State Department approved the sale of $500 million in equipment to Saudi Arabia, which includes maintenance support services for helicopters, including Saudi Arabia’s Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, as well as a future fleet of CH-47D Chinook helicopters.

In July, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman met with Sullivan and other senior Biden administration officials in Washington, including Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Miller.

Sullivan’s stops in the UAE and Egypt are expected to focus on human rights and bilateral relations.

The US recently greenlighted a project for Cairo to export natural gas to Lebanon via Syria and Jordan.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the matter have previously told Al Arabiya English that Washington was working on ways to circumvent Caesar Act sanctions against the Assad regime in order for Lebanon to receive badly needed gas supplies.

Read more: US talking to Egypt, Jordan to help Lebanon’s fuel, energy needs: Senior US diplomat

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