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Biden Says Any Saudi Visit Would Focus on More Than Energy

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he has “not yet” made a decision about visiting Saudi Arabia, but that if he went it would be to take part in meetings that go beyond energy topics.

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While Biden didn’t specify the format, Saudi Arabia has been planning a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional group that also comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Visiting Saudi Arabia would reflect a shift in diplomatic priorities by Biden and an effort to mend ties with a country he once pledged to make a “pariah” for its alleged human-rights abuses.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and surging inflation -- exemplified by record US gasoline prices -- are putting pressure on the president to change tack and boost energy supplies. Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude exporter.

Any trip to Saudi Arabia would be for a “larger meeting” on regional security, Biden told reporters Saturday at the end of a trip to California.

The White House intends to announce the trip to Saudi Arabia as early as Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing two officials with knowledge of the plans. The agenda includes a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the newspaper said, adding that a stop in Israel is also planned.

The US government has said that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi -- a US resident and Washington Post columnist.

Biden sought to “recalibrate” the US-Saudi relationship early in his presidency by dealing with 86-year-old King Salman instead of Mohammed, who often spoke directly with former President Donald Trump.

(Updates with WSJ report on timing of announcement in fifth paragraph)

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