JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – President Biden has been a vocal critic over human rights concerns. Now, he faces bipartisan criticism back home for his upcoming meeting with leaders who include Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler and son of Saudi King Salman.
The U.S. released a report accusing MBS, as Mohammed bin Salman is known, of authorizing the murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The crown prince has repeatedly rejected the accusation, calling it “false and unacceptable.”
While President Biden took questions on the subject Thursday, he stopped short of answering if he would address the issue later in the week.
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“I always bring up human rights, and my position on Khashoggi has been so clear. If anyone in Saudi doesn’t understand it, then they haven’t been around for a while,” Biden said.
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The four-day Middle East stint started in Israel. Biden will become the first U.S. President to fly from there to Jeddah.
The White House claims the trip will improve relationships in the region and stabilize security. The meeting is also expected to promote U.S. interests in the region and energy concerns.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest oil exporters. It’s unlikely the meeting would bring drastic short-term changes to the kingdom’s oil production plans. Still, gas prices around the world continue to soar.
U.S. officials predict topics on the table will also include Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Israeli Prime minister Yair Lapid and President Biden discussed the matter Thursday.
While the U.S. has pushed to resume the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the talks have so far stalled.
“We’ve made it absolutely clear: We will not — let me say it again — we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Biden said Thursday.