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March 11, 2014

Obama’s Visit to Saudi Arabia is an Opportunity to Demonstrate Leadership on Human Rights

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called upon President Barack Obama to urge the government of Saudi Arabia to cooperate with the United States in actions to ease regional conflicts and promote tolerance and pluralism. The call came in an open letter sent to the White House, highlighting country situations where the United States and Saudi Arabia have been unable to cooperate to promote human rights.

“Saudi Arabia has too often used its influence to obstruct or reverse peaceful reform and to support extremists,” wrote Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “In order for the United States and Saudi Arabia to realize their common goals the bi-lateral relationship must be rooted in shared respect for the universal values of human rights at home and abroad.” 

Human Rights First calls on President Obama to urge Saudi Arabia to play a more constructive role in its relations with three countries of vital interest to the United States: Syria, Egypt and Bahrain.

In Syria, Human Rights First calls for a common strategy between the two countries to coordinate support for those parts of the opposition to the Assad regime committed to inclusion and pluralism, and to stop weapons and money flowing to extremists.

In Egypt, Human Rights First notes that short-term economic assistance from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies is undermining U.S. efforts to promote a peaceful, inclusive democratic transition.  It calls on the president to urge Saudi Arabia to work with the United States to provide encouragement and incentives for the Egyptian authorities to move away from their current repressive course.

In Bahrain, Human Rights First urges the president to press the Saudi government to be a partner in supporting political reform and greater inclusivity, and to promote a constructive alternative to continuing repression by the Bahraini authorities.

For more information or to speak with Massimino, please contact Corinne Duffy at duffyc@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.

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