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US to hold summit with India, Israel and UAE during Biden's regional tour

The US will launch the dialogue during President Joe Biden's visit to the region in mid-July
Joe Biden
The four-nation dialogue will be called I2U2 - for India and Israel whose names begin with the letter 'I' and the US and the UAE that begin with the letter 'U' (AFP/File photo)

The US will launch a four-nation summit with India, Israel and the United Arab Emirates during President Joe Biden's visit to the region next month, the White House has said.

A senior White House official told reporters on Tuesday that the initiative would be launched during Biden's visit to Israel on 13 July, where he will first meet Israeli leaders and then Palestinian officials.

According to the official, Biden will hold a virtual meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the UAE's President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

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The leaders will discuss security and "areas of cooperation across hemispheres where UAE and Israel serve as important innovation hubs", the official said, who went on to describe the meeting as a "unique engagement".

"We consider these initiatives central to our strategy of empowering partners and encouraging them to work more closely together, which will lead to a more stable region and also to Israel's security and prosperity over the longer term," the White House official said.

No other details were available about the initiative, its goals or reach.

All four countries have close cooperation in trade and investment, and they have shown staunch support for each other on critical political issues.

Last year, the Emirates tried to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan, and Dubai also inked an agreement with New Delhi to build infrastructure - including IT towers, logistics centres and a hospital - in Indian-administered Kashmir. 

'Pariah' no more

Biden will also be paying a visit to Saudi Arabia next month, where he will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, reversing a campaign pledge to make the kingdom a "pariah".

The trip will culminate with a major gathering of regional leaders in Jeddah, the Saudi port city, where Biden is expected to engage in some capacity with bin Salman, also known as MBS.

The president will fly directly from Israel to Jeddah, itself a sign of warming relations in a region where bans on direct travel were once an extension of the deep enmity between Israel and its Arab neighbours. In Jeddah, he'll participate in a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of the region's monarchies, plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

The Saudi announcement of the visit was more explicit: "The crown prince and President Biden will hold official talks that will focus on various areas of bilateral cooperation," the SPA news agency said in a statement.

Biden had initially said he would not engage with MBS. When coming into office, he said he would speak only to the crown prince's father, King Salman, who is 86 years old and in deteriorating health.

Speaking to reporters this weekend, Biden insisted the trip was not tied to global energy prices, even though the US has been pressuring the Saudi-led Opec+ cartel to increase oil production as the price of gas skyrockets.

"The commitments from the Saudis don't relate to anything having to do with energy," he said. "It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That's the reason I'm going. And it has to do with national security for them - for Israelis."