biden: Biden will visit Saudi Arabia, ending his ‘pariah’ status


WASHINGTON: U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia this month, reports said Thursday, a stark turnaround for a leader who once called for making the kingdom a pariah.
The announced decision comes hours after Saudi Arabia addressed two of Biden’s priorities by agreeing to increased oil production and helping to extend a truce in war-torn Yemen.
The New York Times and CNN, citing unnamed sources, both said Biden would go ahead with the long-talked-about Saudi shutdown on an upcoming trip.
White House press secretary Karine JeanPierre said she had no trips to announce, adding only, “The president will seek opportunities for dialogue with leaders in the Middle East region.”
Biden plans to travel to a NATO summit in Spain and a Group of Seven summit in Germany this month. He is also expected to visit Israel.
Biden, as he ran for president, called on Saudi leaders to be treated like “the pariah that they are” after the ultra-conservative kingdom’s friendly relationship with his predecessor Donald Trump.
Trump had largely shielded Saudi Arabia from consequences after dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident, was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was strangled and dismembered.
Trump’s son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner had developed a close bond with Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who reportedly conversed with him on WhatsApp chats.
Shortly after taking office, Biden released an intelligence report indicating that the crown prince had authorized Khashoggi’s killing and that the administration had imposed visa restrictions on dozens of Saudis accused of threatening dissidents.
Biden also cut support for a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen amid revulsion over civilian casualties.
Biden on Thursday welcomed the extension of a fragile two-month truce between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-affiliated Houthi rebels, with US officials saying Riyadh was backing diplomacy.
On Thursday, major Saudi-led oil producers also agreed to a bigger-than-expected production increase, a relief for Biden whose poll numbers have fallen in part due to soaring gas prices. after Russia invaded Ukraine.
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