President Biden said Friday he does not have “direct plans” to soon travel to Saudi Arabia but acknowledged the trip was a possibility.
The Hill and other news outlets reported earlier this week that Biden administration officials are laying the groundwork for a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia later this month but that the visit has not been finalized.
“I have no direct plans at the moment,” Biden said Friday when asked by reporters, adding he is focused on bringing “more stability and peace to the Middle East.”
“There is a possibility that I would be going to meet with both the Israelis and some Arab countries at the time, including I expect would be Saudi Arabia would be included in that if I did go,” Biden added.
Biden did not directly answer Friday when asked if he would meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He also defended the possibility of such a trip despite having pledged in 2019 to make Saudi Arabia a pariah on the world stage over the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A declassified U.S. intelligence report released by the Biden administration last year said the Saudi crown prince approved the murder of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family.
“I’m not going to change my view on human rights, but as president of the United States my job is to bring peace if I can,” Biden said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
If the meeting does happen, it is expected to focus at least in part on convincing Riyadh to release more oil onto the market as a way to bring down gas prices, which have risen globally amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Two high-ranking Biden administration officials recently traveled to Saudi Arabia for talks about global energy supplies and Iran and have also been in touch with other countries about supplies, like the United Arab Emirates.
It’s unclear when Biden’s trip to the Middle East will be finalized, but it’s widely expected to take place at the end of the month.
Israeli media reported on Friday that Biden is expected to travel to Israel on June 23 before the trip to Saudi Arabia.
Plans for the trip have already triggered some criticism. An organization representing families and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks penned an open letter to Biden on Thursday urging him to hold Riyadh accountable for the role Saudi officials allegedly played in those attacks.
Source: The Hill