(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden defended his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia in The Washington Post and pledged to give attention to human rights on his visit with the crown prince, a meeting that has been widely criticized by opponents of Mohammed Bin Salman’s policies.

“I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia. My views on human rights are clear and long-standing,” the president wrote in the opinion piece publishing Sunday. He is slated to travel to both Israel and Saudi Arabia this coming week.

“As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and secure. We have to counter Russia’s aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world,” he said. “To do these things, we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes.” 

Biden is expected to meet with Prince Mohammed and Arab leaders of other Gulf countries to persuade them to pump more oil into the market to drive down gasoline prices in the US.

Biden also noted he would be the first president to fly from Israel to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, after decades of hostility between the Jewish state and Arab kingdom. He doesn’t criticize the Saudi government for the murder of a US-based Saudi journalist, Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, who wrote for the Post and other publications.

“That travel will also be a small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to deepen and expand. In Jiddah, leaders from across the region will gather, pointing to the possibility of a more stable and integrated Middle East, with the United States playing a vital leadership role,” the president wrote.

Some Democrats in Congress and human rights activists have complained about Biden’s visit, saying he was breaking a 2020 campaign promise to make Prince Mohammed a “pariah” on the global stage.

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