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Biden to meet with King Salman, Crown Prince during trip to Saudi Arabia: White House

The US is working to integrate Middle Eastern countries' air defense systems to counter Iran, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters.

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The White House said on Thursday that President Joe Biden would meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his trip to Jeddah later this month while highlighting its work to integrate air defense systems in the region to counter a growing Iranian threat.

“The President will sit down in a bilateral meeting with King Salman and his leadership team, as you know, the Crown Prince is on that leadership team… So, certainly, the President will be seeing the Crown Prince in the context of that larger bilateral discussion,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said.

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Kirby spoke to reporters ahead of Biden’s first visit to the Middle East, which will take place next week. “What happens over there [in the Middle East] definitely affects us here at home,” he said.

Biden will go to Saudi Arabia from July 15-16 at the invitation of King Salman, where he will take part in a GCC summit that will also include Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan.

The US president will also stop in the West Bank and Israel from July 13-16, before taking a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Saudi Arabia.

Countering Iran

Asked about expanding the Abraham Accords, Kirby said the US would encourage the expansion of Gulf countries normalizing ties with Israel. “We believe that’s good for the region; it’s good for the security interest of all concerned, including the United States,” he said.

US military officials have long urged the integration of regional air defense systems of Arab countries between each other as well as with Israel in the face of Iran. This will be a topic of discussion during Biden’s trip, according to Kirby.

“There’s a greater collaboration across the region on issues like air defense, and we’re continuing to work on integrated air defense capabilities and frameworks across the region… because the whole region is concerned about Iran and their burgeoning and growing ballistic missile capabilities… and continued support for terrorism across the region,” he said.

Washington is asking countries in the region how it can help bring air defense systems together so there is a more effective way to deal with a growing Iranian threat.

Kirby added: “There is a growing convergence among nations in the region of concern about [Iran’s] advancing ballistic missile program and their support to terror networks.”

Read more: Iran tensions, record gas prices push Biden to recalibrate US policy in Middle East

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