Washington (AFP) – On Friday, US President Joe Biden sought to downplay the importance of his forthcoming controversial meeting with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, stressing that the meeting would take place in an international context.
Before boarding the helicopter over the weekend, Biden said, “I will not meet Mohammed bin Salman. I will go to the international conference he will attend.”
But the words used reflect Biden’s embarrassment, realizing that his forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia in July, after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoki, would restore the Saudi prince’s international status after he was largely isolated.
On Tuesday, the White House announced that Biden would attend a regional summit in Jeddah next month and meet with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Saudi officials, especially the Crown Prince.
On the other hand, Biden said during his state visit that he would meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the guardian of the two holy mosques, and his entourage, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Prime Minister.
“The meeting will discuss aspects of cooperation between the two friendly countries and ways to address the challenges facing the region and the world,” the agency said.
For his part, White House spokeswoman Karen Jean-Pierre stressed that the meeting with Mohammed bin Salman was small and not focused.
“The president will meet with more than a dozen heads of state during his visit,” Jean-Pierre said. “We can expect the president to meet with the Crown Prince as well.”
U.S. intelligence has accused the Saudi prince of ordering the assassination of Kashoki in 2018.
Kashogi, who was close to Saudi Arabia’s circles of power before becoming a critic of the Crown Prince, was assassinated at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in 2018 and cut off by Saudis from the kingdom.
The US intelligence report concludes that Prince Mohammed agreed to arrest or assassinate Kashoghi. The Saudi prince has denied the allegations.
After the kingdom’s close relationship with his predecessor, Donald Trump, Biden vowed during his presidential campaign to treat Saudi leaders as “expelled.”
During the visit, Biden is expected to push the country to increase its oil production in an effort to accelerate rising fuel prices and inflation.
© 2022 AFP
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