President Biden will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he travels to Saudi Arabia next month, ignoring his campaign promise to make Riyadh a “pariah” over its role in the 2018 killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
An initial White House statement made no mention of whether Biden would meet with the monarch widely known as MBS — who US intelligence believes to have ordered Khashoggi’s murder. However, both the Saudi Embassy in Washington and National Security Council official John Kirby confirmed that Biden and the crown prince would meet.
The Saudi visit will be the last leg of Biden’s Middle East trip, which will also take him to Israel and the West Bank July 13-16.
Reports have circulated for weeks that Biden would travel to Saudi Arabia after OPEC agreed to boost oil production.
However, the White House repeatedly declined to confirm a visit would take place, with Biden telling reporters earlier this month, “I’m not sure whether I’m going.”
“I have no direct plans at the moment,” the president added. “But let me tell you that I have been engaged in trying to work with how we can bring more stability and peace in the Middle East.”
In November 2019, Biden said during a Democratic primary debate that his administration would make Saudi Arabia “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder and “make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”
The president appeared to waver on that stance earlier this month saying, “Look, I’m not going to change my view on human rights. But as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can — peace if I can. And that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Last week, a new report indicated some US officials later revealed the White House was looking to “reset” relations with Saudi Arabia as the US struggles to content with record-high gas prices.
“Both sides have decided that for the sake of achieving peace and stability in the Middle East, we need to move past it,” one senior US official told CNN.