President Joe Biden on Thursday tried to distance himself once again from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying he would only meet with him as part of a larger group when he’s in Jeddah next month.
And, the president emphasized, the purpose of his trip was not to meet the Saudi royals – including aging King Salman – but to attend a meeting of the GCC plus 3 summit to talk oil production.
Biden pushed back when asked if he would hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights abuses while, at the same time, push them to release more crude oil to ease high gas prices.
‘Well, first of all, that’s not the purpose of the trip,’ he said at his press conference at the end of the NATO summit.
‘It’s not about Saudi Arabia. It’s in Saudi Arabia,’ he noted. ‘I guess I will see the king and the Crown Prince. But that’s, that’s not the meeting I’m going to. They’ll be part of a much larger meeting.’
The White House has pushed back against talk Biden will have a sit down with the crown prince, known by his initials MBS, during his two days in Saudi Arabia.
The administration has repeatedly said the upcoming trip is a meeting with heads of Gulf nations.
President Joe Biden tried to distance himself once again from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of his trip to Jeddah next month
But the kingdom said that MBS and Biden would be meeting unilaterally.
‘The crown prince and President Biden will hold official talks that will focus on various areas of bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address regional and global challenges,’ the country said in a statement when Biden’s trip was announced.
Biden has been under heavy pressure from human rights activists not to meet with MBS because of his role in the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post journalist was murdered in Turkey in 2018. The CIA has concluded with ‘high confidence’ that bin Salman ordered the assassination.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden referred to MBS as a ‘pariah’ in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s killing.
Human rights advocates also have encouraged Biden not to make the trip without bringing up Saudi’s treatment of its citizens.
The president and his administration have said Biden would bring up human rights issues during the trip.
Biden also said on Thursday he was going to Jeddah to meet with gulf nations on oil production. The president is under heavy pressure to do something about the high price of gas Americans are facing at the pump.
But he said he wasn’t going to ask the king or crown prince to release more oil.
‘I’m not gonna ask to him,’ he said. ‘I hope we see them in their own interest concluding that makes sense to do.’
‘I’ve indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production generically, not to the Saudis, particularly,’ Biden said.
President Biden previously called the crown prince a ‘pirah’ after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (above)
Meanwhile, the OPEC oil cartel and allied producing nations decided Thursday to boost oil production of crude by an amount that will do little to relieve gas prices.
The increase of 648,000 barrels per day in August still leaves the world hungry for oil.
And Biden said Thursday that Americans should pay higher gas prices for ‘as long as it takes’ as he doubled down on blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the United States’ domestic woes.
Biden, in a press conference wrapping up his NATO summit, addressed the high prices Americans are paying at the pump and the record high inflation facing the country even as he argued other nations have even higher prices.
‘As long as it takes,’ the president said when asked how long Americans will pay nearly $5 a gallon at the pump. The average price of gas is $4.857.
He argued it was necessary to help Ukraine fight off Russia.
‘Russia cannot in fact, defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine. This is a critical critical position for the world,’ the president said.
Biden, as he has done repeatedly in the past, blamed Russia’s war in the Ukraine. He cites ‘Putin’s price hike’ when he talks about the high costs Americans are paying for food and gas – costs that have contributed to high inflation.
‘Ultimately, the reason why gas prices are up is because of Russia, Russia, Russia,’ he said. ‘The reason why the food crisis exists is because of Russia – Russia not allowing the grain to get out of Ukraine.’
He pointed to the actions he’s taken to get prices down at the pump – including releasing oil from the strategic oil reserve and calling on Congress to levy a federal gas holiday through September.
But prices haven’t fallen much and experts say Biden’s actions would only save a few cents a gallon.