President Joe Biden insisted on Friday he will not be meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he’s in Saudi Arabia next month.
He made the comment when he asked if he’d condemn the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden said he would handle the Khashoggi issue with the Saudis ‘the same way I’ve been handling it.’
He then said he wouldn’t be meeting with MBS, as the crown prince is known.
‘I’m not going to meet with MBS. I’m going to an international meeting and he’s going to be part of it,’ Biden told reporters at the White House before he left to spend the weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Biden will be in Jeddah in mid-July to attend a meeting of the GCC plus 3 summit to talk oil production. While there he will meet with the aging Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The White House has noted that Salman’s team, which includes his son and heir MBS, will simply be a part of that meeting. MBS will also be a part of the GCC plus 3 summit, which Saudi chairs.
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.
President Joe Biden insisted he will not be meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he’s in Saudi Arabia next month
Biden previously called the crown prince a ‘pirah’ after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (above)
But White House deputy spokesman John Kirby said Biden will meet with the King and the meeting with MBS will be a part of that.
‘He’s going to meet bilaterally with King Salman and King Salman’s team and the crown prince is part of that team. I suspect he’ll see the crown prince in the context of the meetings. He’s grateful for the king’s willingness to host the GCC plus three. He’s looking forward to, again, a wide scope of discussions,’ Kirby said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe the day the Saudi trip was announced.
But the White House has been dodging questions on whether President Biden will bring up Khashoggi’s murder when he sees MSB next month.
‘We’re not overlooking any content that happened before when the president took office,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this week when asked about it.
‘It’s important to also emphasize that while we collaborate relationships, we are not looking to rupture relationships.’
She said human rights would be part of the conversation.
‘Human rights issues, human rights conversation is something that the president brings up with many leaders and plans to do so,’ she noted.
Earlier this month, the White House said Biden still felt MBS was a ‘pariah’ for what U.S. intelligence says was his role in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Turkey in 2018.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden referred to MBS as a ‘pariah’ in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s killing.
The Washington Post journalist was murdered in Turkey in 2018. The CIA has concluded with ‘high confidence’ that bin Salman ordered the assassination.
Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul tainted the crown prince’s image as a reformist.
Human rights advocates also have encouraged Biden not to make the trip without bringing up Saudi’s treatment of its citizens.
And Khashoggi’s fiancee accused Biden of ‘putting oil over principles’ in meeting with MBS.
‘Mr. President, I beseech you not to lose your moral authority or overlook this heinous crime,’ Hatice Cengiz said in a videotaped message Wednesday. ‘You must uphold your role to bring all the perpetrators of this brutal crime to justice.’
Biden will visit the kingdom on July 15 and 16 in order to repair the relations between the U.S. and the second largest holder of petroleum reserves in the world.
His trip will also include stops in Israel and the West Bank, the White House announced on Tuesday.
While in Saudi Arabia next month President Biden will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, but the White House has downplayed it as a general meeting of Saudi leadership
‘We’re not overlooking any content that happened before when the president took office,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The trip comes as gas prices in the United States continue to surge, a key domestic issue Biden hopes to tackle going into November’s midterm election.
Over the weekend, the national average for a gallon of gas reached $5 for the first time in American history.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of oil, and as a key member of OPEC plays a large part in setting oil prices worldwide.
The White House announced the trip after Saudi Arabia this month helped nudge OPEC+ to ramp up oil production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August.
At the time, the White House put out a statement thanking the kingdom, a move that was seen as a step toward trying to thaw the icy relations between Washington D.C. and Riyadh.
Biden also praised the kingdom for agreeing to extend a United Nations-mediated cease-fire in its seven-year war with Yemen. The president called the decison ‘courageous.’