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Joe Biden weighs trip to Saudi Arabia, say reports

June 3, 2022

US President Joe Biden is reportedly considering a visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Biden has been critical of MBS, but faces increasing pressure to tackle rising oil prices.

In this Jan. 25, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden answers questions from reporters in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, in Washington. Biden is set to announce a wide-ranging moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands, as his administration moves quickly to reverse Trump administration policies on energy and the environment and address climate change.
Senior officials in the Biden administration say it's important for the US to address strategic interestsImage: Evan Vucci/AP Photo/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to visit Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the end of June, according to multiple media reports.

Biden's relations with the crown prince, popularly referred to by his initials, MBS, took a nosedive after the US last year accused him of directing the murder of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. 

Biden had also labeled Saudi Arabia as a "pariah" state during his 2020 presidential campaign.

US aims to bolster Saudi ties to tackle soaring energy prices  

Since taking office in 2021, Biden has faced an array of challenges on several fronts, with record inflation and rising energy prices being among the major issues of concern for Americans.

The US has not confirmed Biden's trip yet, with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying that Biden was focused "first and foremost" on how his "engagements with foreign leaders advance American interests."

"That's as true with Saudi Arabia as anywhere else," she added.

Biden at Gulf Cooperation Council

Reuters news agency, citing unnamed sources, reported Thursday night that Biden is weighing a meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council at a summit in Riyadh at the end of the month. 

The GCC is a regional union whose members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Reuters reported that Biden is planning to visit Europe and Israel during his trip.

U-turn in relations: Biden praises MBS 

Biden on Thursday praised MBS for extending a truce in the yearslong war in Yemen.

"Saudi Arabia demonstrated courageous leadership by taking initiatives early on to endorse and implement terms of the UN-led truce," Biden said in a statement after the 60-day extension was announced.

Jean-Pierre told reporters that MBS and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud deserved credit for their roles.

Yemen sees first nationwide truce since 2016

"This truce would not be possible without the cooperative diplomacy from across the region. We specifically recognize the leadership of King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia in helping consolidate the truce," Jean-Pierre said.

Additionally, the US said it welcomed the "important decision" by OPEC+ to pump more crude oil, announced Thursday evening, over the next two months. Saudi Arabia is a key supplier and a big player in the oil cartel.

"We recognize the role of Saudi Arabia as the chair of OPEC+ and its largest producer in achieving this consensus amongst group members," Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Even though details of Biden's trip are yet to be confirmed, senior US officials recently visited Saudi Arabia to discuss energy output and the Biden administration's effort to revive the Iran deal, among other things.

rm/sri (Reuters, AFP, AP)