US, Arab states, India, EU to unveil rail, ports agreement on G20 sidelines: White House

A multinational rail and ports deal linking the Middle East and South Asia will be announced on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, a White House official has confirmed.

The pact comes at a critical time as U.S. President Joe Biden seeks to counter China’s Belt and Road push on global infrastructure by pitching Washington as an alternative partner and investor for developing countries at the G20 grouping.

The deal will benefit low and middle-income countries in the region, and enable a critical role for the Middle East in global commerce, Jon Finer, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, told reporters at the bloc’s annual summit in New Delhi.

It aims to link Middle East countries by railway and connect them to India by port, helping the flow of energy and trade from the Persian Gulf to Europe, U.S. officials have said, by cutting shipping times, costs and fuel use.

A memorandum of understanding for the deal will be signed by the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and other G20 partners, Finer added.

“Linking these key regions, we think, is a huge opportunity,” said Finer. No immediate details of the value of the deal were available.

The move comes amid U.S. efforts for a broader diplomatic deal in the Middle East that would have Saudi Arabia recognise Israel.

From the U.S. viewpoint, Finer stated, the deal helps “turn the temperature down across the region” and “address a conflict where we see it”.

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