Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned visit to Iran, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed America’s geopolitical claim in the region during his trip to the Middle East. “We will not go away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” Biden said in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.

The United States would remain an active and committed partner in the Middle East and was “going nowhere.” Biden completed his first trip to the Middle East as US President on Saturday, which had taken him to Israel, the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.

Before his return trip, Biden attended a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Saturday. A joint statement then said that they wanted to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through diplomatic channels. During his visit to Jerusalem, Biden had already assured that the United States would not tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran.

A new nuclear deal with Tehran is the best way to prevent this, he said in Israel. However, if negotiations continued to falter, Washington would not wait forever. Biden did not rule out using force as a last resort to counter a nuclear threat.

Kremlin chief Putin plans to travel to Iran for political talks on Tuesday. In addition to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, he is also scheduled to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A senior US official said on the sidelines of the GCC summit that the US had received indications that Russia was planning to buy Iranian combat drones for use in the Ukraine war.

For action against Iran, the United States is counting on a united Middle East and closer cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The region is more united than ever, said Biden during his visit. Former rivals have established diplomatic and economic relations – a reference to the rapprochement of several Arab states with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords.

Saudi Arabia still does not recognize Israel, but announced during Biden’s visit that it would open airspace to flights to and from Israel.

At the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council and other Arab states, nine heads of state or government from the region were invited to Jeddah in addition to the USA – including those from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iraq and Egypt.

Speaking of energy security amid rising prices, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad said, “We will spare no effort to ensure the continued flow of energy supplies.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that Saudi Arabia intends to increase its oil production capacity by one million barrels per day, from the current 12 to 13 million barrels per day. However, he did not promise to actually produce more oil.

Biden had previously received a lot of criticism for his trip to Saudi Arabia – including a fist salute with the heir to the throne. US intelligence services see Crown Prince Mohammed behind the murder of government critic Jamal Khashoggi. The US-based journalist Khashoggi was killed by a hit squad in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Biden said on Friday evening that he had addressed the murder “crystal clear” when meeting the crown prince – but he had denied any responsibility. “He was basically saying that he wasn’t personally responsible for it. I indicated that I think he is,” Biden said.

The Saudi government warned the United States against interference in the case. “Forcing values ​​is counterproductive,” Saudi Arabia-funded news channel Al-Arabiya quoted a government official as saying. Crown Prince Mohammed assured Biden at their meeting on Friday evening that the kingdom “took the necessary steps in the Khashoggi incident.”