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Biden to Visit Saudi Arabia and Meet Crown Prince, NBC Reports


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(Bloomberg) President Joe Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next month and is set to meet the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to a report by NBC.

Biden will visit the country from July 15 to 16, and hold meetings with officials including the Crown Prince, the network reported citing sources it did not identify.

The White House had no immediate comment on the NBC report. Earlier Monday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the administration was planning for a trip but that there had been no final decision.

Biden once promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over its human-rights abuses. His willingness to travel to the kingdom shows the extent to which his efforts to lower gasoline prices and isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine have overridden his desire to take a harder line against Riyadh.

The Biden administration issued a declassified report last year finding that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. Biden has also previously criticized a Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign against Houthi militants in Yemen’s civil war, in which tens of thousands of civilians have died, according to the United Nations.

The president said on June 3 he had no “direct plans” to visit the kingdom but if he did, he would likely meet with its leaders, without specifically naming MBS, as he is known.

A visit would demonstrate how Biden’s diplomatic priorities have changed since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

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The president has endeavored to bolster global energy supplies to replace Russian output and curb soaring gasoline prices that have damaged his party’s political standing ahead of midterm elections in November. The average price at the pump surpassed $5 a gallon nationally over the weekend, according to the AAA automobile club.

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The Saudi-led OPEC+ cartel agreed earlier this month to a modest oil production increase in July and August, a gesture that was welcomed by the Biden administration. It came after multiple visits to Saudi Arabia by Brett McGurk, the top White House adviser on the Middle East, and Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s senior adviser for energy security.

Biden also praised Saudi Arabia’s role in brokering an extension of a truce in Yemen.

“Saudi Arabia demonstrated courageous leadership by taking initiatives early on to endorse and implement terms of the UN-led truce,” the president said in a statement this month.

Any visit would be a departure from Biden’s promises as a presidential candidate and during his early days in office to hold the kingdom accountable for Khashoggi’s death. The crown prince has denied ordering the killing but took responsibility for it as his country’s de facto ruler.

The president indicated earlier this month he would raise human-rights issues if he decided to visit Saudi Arabia, saying “I’m not going to change my view on human rights.”



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