US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Saudi Arabia, whose leaders he once said should be pariahs. Biden is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he travels to the kingdom next month, a senior administration official told reporters according to Axios.
Biden is traveling to the Middle East from July 13-16 as part of a broader Middle East trip. After visiting Israel and the West Bank, Biden will travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where nine leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq and Jordan will meet.
“While in Israel, the president will likely visit an area where these defensive systems are utilized, as well as discuss new innovations between our countries that use laser technologies to defeat missiles and other airborne threats,” an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as reported by France24.
In the occupied West Bank Biden will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and “reaffirm his lifelong commitment to the two-state solution.”
Biden is expected to meet the powerful crown prince, who US intelligence said ordered the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Muhammad bin Salman, sometimes called “MBS,” denies any involvement.
A boost in Saudi oil production is widely expected to be Biden’s goal as he tries to contain fuel costs and inflation at home ahead of the midterm congressional elections, where his Democratic party is at risk.
“While we’ve recalibrated relations, we’re not seeking to rupture relations because Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner of the United States for eight decades and we share a host of interests,” the senior administration official told reporters on a call.
Among Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt, the Biden administration is quietly mediating a deal to transfer two strategically important islands in the Red Sea from Egyptian to Saudi control ahead of the visit.