President Biden is officially heading to Saudi Arabia. He’ll go to the Middle Eastern nation in July, and though the White House did not announce a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi embassy has said that the two leaders “will hold official talks that will focus on various areas of bilateral cooperation.” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby essentially confirmed a meeting, as well. “We’re not shying away from that,” he said on CNN.
The trip, during which Biden will also visit Israel and the West Bank, comes after the president promised to ostracize Saudi Arabia following the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A U.S. intelligence report found that bin Salman ordered the assassination. Khashoggi — who had been critical of Saudi Arabia’s rules, including bin Salman — was dismembered with a bone saw after Saudi agents drew him into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are,” Biden said during a Democratic debate in 2019.
Biden will participate in a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council during his visit in July, and will hold bilateral talks with other leaders. The president has claimed the trip doesn’t have anything to do with oil production despite the soaring gas prices in the U.S.
“The President looks forward to outlining his affirmative vision for US engagement in the region over the coming months and years,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement announcing the visit. “The President appreciates King Salman’s leadership and his invitation. He looks forward to this important visit to Saudi Arabia, which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly eight decades.”