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US: families of Americans detained in Saudi Arabia and Egypt were omitted from Blinken call

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 23, 2022 [PHILIP FONG / AFP/POOL/Anadolu Agency]
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 23, 2022 [PHILIP FONG / AFP/POOL/Anadolu Agency]

Relatives of US citizens detained in Saudi Arabia and Egypt have expressed their anger at not being invited to take part in a phone call last month with the Secretary of State. Antony Blinken spoke to the families of citizens detained in other countries, such as Russia, Venezuela and Rwanda, on 22 June, and assured them that he and the government are "working to bring your loved ones home."

The invitation to take part in the call was reportedly not extended to the relatives of US citizens detained by the Saudi and Egyptian governments. There is outrage at this difference in treatment.

"The willingness of the US to expend its political capital in resolving wrongful detention cases is not consistent and is based on some arbitrary criteria: is your wrongfully detained family member detained in a country that is a foe or ally?" one anonymous individual is reported as saying by the Guardian.

Following the outcry and the newspaper's report, the US State Department told the Guardian that, "We take our responsibility to assist all US nationals seriously, and we press for fair and transparent treatment in all cases."

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Exposure of the department's apparent neglect of some detainees and their relatives comes at a time when President Joe Biden's administration seems to be prioritising the maintenance and improvement of relations with Riyadh and Cairo. Biden is also due to visit Saudi Arabia — as well as Israel — next week, during which he will reportedly meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The two leaders are expected to discuss a range of topics, primarily oil production, Saudi ties with Israel and policies on Iran.

The planned visit has been criticised heavily by human rights groups, activists and figures from both the Democratic and Republican parties, who call for a stricter stance towards the kingdom over its poor human rights record and its killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Criticism of Biden in particular is due to his pre-election pledge to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state in the international community.

AfricaAsia & AmericasEgyptMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUS
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