President Obama will forego a visit to the Taj Mahal during his visit to India in order to pay respects in Saudi Arabia after the death of King Abdullah, the White House announced early Saturday morning.
Vice President Biden was initially scheduled to lead the U.S. delegation, but he will instead now remain in Washington and Obama will add the stop onto his return from India, where the president is embarking on a three-day trip to foster economic ties with the nation.
“As the President’s and Vice President’s travel schedules became clearer, we determined that the window when the Vice President would be on the ground in Riyadh coincided with the President’s departure from India,” Earnest continued. “Accordingly, we adjusted the schedule in coordination with the Indian Government so that the President would be able to depart India following his speech on Tuesday to stop in Riyadh during the return trip to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials and offer his condolences on behalf of the American people.”
King Abdullah, who died Thursday at the age of 90, was a key ally for the United States during his reign. The ruler invested the nation’s oil revenues into the country’s infrastructure and education, while also proving to be a critical partner with the U.S. against al Qaeda. However, he was also criticized by many for his nation’s slow advancement of progress for women.
Following his death, President Obama praised the leader as someone who was "dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world” and heralded the "closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries.”
This post was updated at 8:55 a.m.