On Friday, President Biden tried to downplay his heavily criticized plans to hold talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by saying he will meet with the de facto ruler as part of a broader “international meeting.”
Biden made the comments when asked how he will handle the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi when he visits Saudi Arabia next month. “The same way I’ve been handling it,” he told reporters.
“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, just like there were people part of the discussion today,” Biden added.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia, which will be part of a regional tour from July 13-16, Biden will be attending a summit of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders that MbS is expected to attend. But US officials confirmed to CBS News that Biden will also hold a separate meeting with MbS and one with his father, King Salman.
The Saudis said in a statement that Biden and MbS will “will hold official talks that will focus on various areas of bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address regional and global challenges, exploring cooperation on emerging technologies, economic investment, space, renewable energy, cybersecurity, climate and environmental initiatives, food and energy security, and expanding trade and commercial ties to enable both countries to confront mutual challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century.”
The meeting is expected to be focused on oil output as Americans are facing soaring gas prices. Biden has banned the import of Russian oil over its invasion of Ukraine while turning to Saudi Arabia for help, a country that has been waging a brutal war against Yemen since 2015 with US backing.
A ceasefire in Yemen has been holding relatively well. Saudi airstrikes haven’t been reported in over two months, although there is still some violence on the ground and a dire humanitarian situation.
Biden has said his visit to Saudi Arabia is also about Israel’s security, as the Israelis are hoping to increase military cooperation with the Gulf states against Iran.