President Joe Biden is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of his Middle East tour.
The Friday trip is designed to reset the United States relationship with the world’s top oil exporter and regional powerhouse that has been strengthening ties with Russia and China, Reuters reports.
According to the White House, the president would hold a bilateral meeting with Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz, at the royal palace in Jeddah and his team would have a working session with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi ministers at the palace.
Biden will also discuss energy supply, human rights, and security cooperation in Saudi Arabia, but energy and security interests have prompted the president and his aides to decide not to isolate the kingdom.
A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday that Washington is not expecting Saudi Arabia to immediately boost oil production and that the United States was eyeing what the OPEC+ decides in its next meeting in August.
White House advisers have declined to say whether Biden will shake hands with the prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Biden will meet with a broader set of Arab leaders at a summit in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on Saturday.
“The president’s going to meet about a dozen leaders and he’ll greet them as he usually does,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters.
At the start of Biden’s trip to the Middle East, officials said he would avoid close contacts, such as shaking hands, as a precaution against COVID-19. But the president ended up engaging in hand-shaking in Israel.
On Thursday Biden had said that his position on Khashoggi’s murder was “absolutely” clear.
Biden had said he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” on the world state about two years ago after the journalist’s killing and while campaigning for president.
Biden said he would raise human rights in Saudi Arabia, but he did not say specifically if he would broach the Khashoggi murder with its leaders.
Saudi ambassador to the United States, Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, writing in U.S. magazine Politico, reiterated the Kingdom’s “abhorrence” of the killing, describing it as a gruesome atrocity, and said it cannot define U.S.-Saudi ties.
She said the relationship should also not be seen in the “outdated and reductionist” oil-for-security paradigm.
“The world has changed and the existential dangers facing us all, including food and energy security and climate change, cannot be resolved without an effective U.S.-Saudi alliance,” she said.