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Biden advocates more freedom in Middle East by telling leaders getting criticized is ‘not fun’

President Biden urged Middle East leaders to embrace freedom to “unleash the full potential” of their countries but pointed out that citizens being able to criticize their leaders is sometimes “not fun.”

“Foundational freedoms are foundational to who we are as Americans,” Biden said Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at the GCC+3 Summit Meeting. “It’s in our DNA.  But it’s also because we know that the future will be won by the countries that unleash the full potential of their populations, where women can exercise equal rights and contribute to building stronger economies, resilient societies, and more modern and capable militaries; where citizens can question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisal.”

Biden continued, “I’ve gotten plenty of criticism over the years.  It’s not fun.  But the ability to speak openly and exchange ideas freely is what unlocks innovation.”

Biden added that no country “gets it right” all the time and said that the United States is no exception while pledging that his nation “is invested in building a positive future in the region” and “not going anywhere.”

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Biden’s speech comes after a series of talks with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman regarding energy production and human rights. The crown prince announced that Saudi Arabia would increase production from roughly 10 million barrels of crude oil per day to 13 million. 

“Energy producers have increased production, and I look forward to seeing what’s coming in the next month,” Biden said of the development. The White House has stressed that it does not expect the output to occur immediately but rather over the coming months. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Friday, July 15, 2022. 

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But Saudi Minister for Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan told reporters Saturday that the president did not discuss oil production during the weekend meetings. 

Also in the meetings, the White House said Biden welcomed the signing of a bilateral Partnership Framework for Advancing Clean Energy, with new Saudi investments to “accelerate the energy transition and combat the effects of climate change.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, center left, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center, arrive for the family photo during the "GCC+3" 

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The White House said the framework “focuses particularly on solar, green hydrogen, nuclear, and other clean energy initiatives.”

Fox News’ Peter Aitken and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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