Fist bump between President Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/37Oz5EwwIB
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 15, 2022
The two leaders are beginning a series of meetings through which the Biden administration hopes to improve relations between the two countries, particularly in the matter of oil exports from Saudi Arabia. The diplomatic summit marks a departure from Biden’s promises to hold bin Salman accountable for his role in the 2018 murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was kidnapped and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, allegedly under orders from bin Salman.
Biden said at a press conference following the meeting that Khashoggi’s murder was the first thing he brought up with the crown prince. He added later that bin Salman denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s death. “He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it,” Biden said. “I indicated I thought he was. He said he was not personally responsible for it and took action against those who were responsible.”
President Biden says he brought up the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman:
“For an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are, and who I am.” pic.twitter.com/qKcU5x9jad
— The Recount (@therecount) July 15, 2022
When Biden was asked about the fist-bump and how he can be sure another murder like Khashoggi’s won’t happen again, he laughed it off. “God love you, what a silly question,” Biden said. “How could I possibly be sure of any of that? I just made it clear if anything occurs like that again, they’ll get that response and much more.”
During his 2020 campaign, Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia “pay the price” for its human rights abuses and treat the nation as the “pariah that they are.” The president and his advisers are now striking a different tune by agreeing to sit down with bin Salman. State Department spokesperson Ned Price spun the new strategy a “recalibration” rather than a “rupture.”
The topic of energy exports will be on the table throughout the summit. Biden is struggling to manage a domestic spike in fuel costs and inflation, and the meetings are taking place as lawmakers in the U.S. struggle to pass economic legislation that would include investment in alternative energy sources. West Virginia’s fossil-fuel friendly Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, appears to once again be standing in the way of these efforts.