Home NewsCommodities News Biden begins sensitive Saudi trip with fist bump for crown prince, handshake for king By Reuters

Biden begins sensitive Saudi trip with fist bump for crown prince, handshake for king By Reuters

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Biden begins sensitive Saudi trip with fist bump for crown prince, handshake for king By Reuters


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© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden reacts as he attends the opening ceremony of Maccabiye in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool

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By Steve Holland, Aziz El Yaakoubi and Maha El Dahan

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Joe Biden kicked off a visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday, where he gave Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a fist and shook hands with King Salman , Washington wants to re-establish ties with the country the U.S. president had promised. Be a pariah on the global stage.

Energy and security interests have prompted Biden and his aides to decide not to isolate the Gulf oil giant, which has been strengthening ties with Russia and China.

But the U.S. National Security Adviser lowered expectations for any immediate increase in oil supplies to help lower gasoline costs and ease U.S. inflation, the highest in four years.

Biden said he would discuss human rights during his visit, where he met with Prince Khalid Faisal, governor of Mecca province, which includes the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The U.S. president then traveled to the palace, where Saudi TV showed him a fist bump with the crown prince, known as MbS. State news agency SPA later published a photo of Biden shaking hands with King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The body language and words of the visit were closely watched. Less than two years ago, Biden made his “untouchable” comments about the 2018 murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.

At the start of Biden’s trip to the Middle East, officials said he would avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, as a precaution against COVID-19. But the president eventually shook hands during his trip to Israel.

After the meeting with the king, Biden and his team entered the conference room for a working meeting with the crown prince and Saudi ministers. “Welcome to Saudi Arabia,” MbS told Biden.

After the opening remarks, several American journalists asked the crown prince questions about Khashoggi. “Will you apologize to his family?” one shouted. MbS, who was sitting next to the Saudi energy minister, didn’t respond and appeared to smile as reporters were led out of the room.

U.S. intelligence has concluded that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, MbS, directly sanctioned the killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, while the crown prince denied involvement.

The sensitive visit will test Biden’s ability to reconnect with the prince. U.S. National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said Biden wanted to “recalibrate” Washington’s relations with Saudi Arabia, not undermine them.

Biden said he would advance human rights in Saudi Arabia, but he did not specify whether he would raise the Khashoggi murder with his leader.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, who was part of the Saudi greeting party, reiterated the kingdom’s “abomination” of the killings in a Politico article, describing it as a gruesome atrocity and saying the US cannot be defined relation.

Nor should the relationship be seen as an “outdated and simplified” oil-for-security paradigm, she said.

Normally, the White House releases the names of foreign officials welcoming the president before they land, but this time the details were released only after Biden had left the airport.

When former US President Donald Trump, who is close to MbS, visited Saudi Arabia in 2017, he met King Salman, who has rarely made public appearances of late. The governor of Mecca met the French president when he visited Jeddah late last year.

no immediate oil boost

On Saturday, Jeddah hosted a larger gathering of Arab leaders.

Sullivan told reporters en route to Jeddah that Biden would discuss energy security with Gulf oil-producing leaders and would like to see more action from OPEC+ to boost output, but that any bilateral announcement was unlikely in the talks.

“We believe that any further action to ensure sufficient energy is available to protect the health of the global economy will be in the context of OPEC+,” Sullivan said. “We hope to see more action from OPEC+ in the coming weeks.”

The OPEC+ group, which includes Russia, will hold its next meeting on August 3.

Biden will also encourage peace and push for a more integrated Middle East during his visit, an administration official said. Topics include strengthening the truce in Yemen, “balancing” the energy market and technical cooperation for 5G and 6G.

Ahead of the visit, Saudi Arabia said it would open its airspace to all airlines, paving the way for more overflights to and from Israel, which Biden called a historic and important step towards building a more integrated and stable Middle East step.

Biden was the first U.S. president to fly directly from Israel to Jeddah, a move the White House said represented a “little symbol” of warming Israel-Saudi relations. Two years ago, Riyadh tacitly allowed the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel.

The U.S.-brokered deal, known as the Abraham Accord, created a new axis in the region where Gulf states share Israel’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and proxy network. Sunni-Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia-Muslim Iran have battled for regional influence for years but launched direct talks last year to contain tensions.

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