WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said on Friday (June 17) that he would not be traveling to Saudi Arabia explicitly to meet de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman during a trip next month and said he was seeing the prince Saudi heir as part of a larger “international”. meeting.”
Biden’s plans to see the crown prince, known as MBS, are part of his first trip to the Gulf region as president. He has been criticized by US lawmakers, including some from his own Democratic Party and human rights advocates, who say the visit contradicts his promise to put human rights at the center of US foreign policy.
“I’m not going to meet with MBS. I’m going to an international meeting and he’s going to be a part of it,” Biden told reporters on Friday when asked how he would handle the war issue during his trip to Saudi Arabia. 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and critic of the crown prince.
The president will travel to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman along with eight additional heads of state for the GCC+3 Summit, a National Security Council spokesman said.
Biden and US officials will also have a bilateral meeting with King Salman and his team, which will include the crown prince.
As a presidential candidate, Biden said he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah.” However, its struggle to reduce record gasoline prices this year has complicated the situation, as the US urges oil-producing nations to increase production to offset Russian losses following Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Weeks after taking office, Biden changed US policy on Saudi Arabia, taking a tougher stance on the kingdom’s human rights record and, in particular, the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Khashoggi in Turkey. US intelligence implicated the crown prince in the murder. The Saudi government has denied any involvement by him.
The White House has said, as recently as this month, that Biden’s view has not changed.
Washington’s desire to improve ties with the Gulf monarchies has become more urgent following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Europe seeks to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.
The United States is urging Gulf states to publicly condemn Moscow, Western diplomats previously told Reuters. The Gulf states have tried to maintain what they say is a neutral position.