This brief public interaction between the two leaders was highly anticipated ahead of the Saudi leg of Biden’s trip to the Middle East. It was all the more notable after White House officials told reporters on Wednesday that Biden would seek to limit his overseas handshake as a precaution amid a rise in Covid variant cases. -19.
Still, Biden shook hands with several Israeli and Palestinian officials and kissed them before arriving in Saudi Arabia, sparking speculation about how the president planned to address the crown prince — whom Biden said. is committed to making an international pariah during the 2020 presidential campaign.
Biden has withstood scrutiny for his decision to travel to Saudi Arabia given his past criticism of the kingdom and the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Last February, the Biden administration released a US intelligence report that bin Salman approved the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Saudi agents brutally murdered the resident. American and dismembered his body.
At a press conference in Jerusalem on Thursday, Biden defended his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia and did not explicitly pledge to bring up Khashoggi’s assassination in conversations with bin Salman.
“I always talk about human rights,” Biden told reporters. “But my position on Khashoggi has been so clear. If someone doesn’t understand him in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else, he hasn’t been there for a while.
Although Biden has promised to take a harder line on Saudi Arabia than former President Donald Trump, his visit to the oil-rich country comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a crisis. global energy market and soaring gas prices in the United States.
On Saturday, the president will attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq and Jordan – known as GCC+3 – where Biden is expected to discuss increasing oil production with the Member States.
Biden told reporters last month that he would not directly ask Saudi Arabia to increase production during the visit, but he acknowledged that he had “indicated” to the GCC + 3 countries “that I thought they should increase oil production generically.”
“It’s in Saudi Arabia. It’s not about Saudi Arabia. It’s in Saudi Arabia,” Biden added of the summit. “There’s a whole range of things that go way beyond anything to do with Saudi Arabia.”