According to media reports, US President Joe Biden wants to travel to Saudi Arabia at the end of the month – thereby breaking with his intention to treat the kingdom like a “pariah”. As the “New York Times” reported on Thursday, Biden is to speak to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and leading politicians from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The logistical details and the timetable have yet to be confirmed, but the basic decision has been made. The visit will be in addition to a trip already planned for the end of June to Israel, to the G7 summit in Germany and to the NATO summit in Spain.
The newspaper highlighted Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth at a time of skyrocketing energy prices and Biden’s efforts to isolate Russia internationally over the Ukraine war.
The Washington Post also reported on the trip, citing government circles. She stressed that the “private talks” with the mighty prince would come after several “discreet” missions by his Middle East adviser Brett McGurk and his energy envoy, Amos Hochstein.
“The President looks forward to the opportunity to speak to Middle East leaders,” White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre said, without explicitly confirming the trip.
Before his election, Biden had said Saudi Arabia should be treated like a “pariah” state over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
After he took office, the government released an intelligence report that the Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler approved Khashoggi’s assassination. Riyadh rejects this and assures that the Saudi Arabian perpetrators acted on their own initiative.
Biden’s government had spoken of a “recalibration” of relations with Washington’s ally. Biden’s environment said that he did not want to speak directly to the crown prince. The United States wanted to make compliance with human rights and an end to the war in neighboring Yemen more of an issue.
The decision to travel comes at a time when the international community has secured a two-month extension of the fragile ceasefire in Yemen. Biden praised Saudi Arabia’s “courageous leadership” on Thursday, which leads a military coalition in the neighboring country. The Saudi Arabian-led oil cartel Opec also recently complied with a request from the West and decided to expand production.