Biden says any potential Saudi trip would not relate to energy

President Joe Biden speaks at a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Summit of the Americas, Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Biden said Saturday he has not yet decided about making a possible trip to Saudi Arabia but said any potential visit to the kingdom would not relate to energy.

But in answering a follow-up question, Biden appeared to suggest he was going – and that he wasn’t waiting for any specific commitments from officials in Riyadh.

“No. Not yet,” Biden replied in response to a question about whether he had decided to go to Saudi Arabia.

But when asked what was holding up the decision and whether it had to do with waiting for commitments from the Saudis or negotiations over peace talks, Biden said it was not, then referred to a larger meeting in the kingdom that he suggested he would attend.

“The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,” the president said.  “It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going,” he said. “And it has to do with national security for them, for Israelis…  It has to do with much larger issues than having to do with the energy piece.”

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said that Biden’s trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia was being planned, though other details were not available.

“The trip comes in the context of a significant agenda with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the other countries of the Middle East. That agenda is focused on delivering results for the American people as well as ending wars and leading through diplomacy to bring stability to the Middle East region,” the spokesperson said. 

Several outlets have reported in recent weeks that Biden is planning to go to the kingdom and potentially meet with its Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, partially in an effort to stabilize global oil markets amid skyrocketing gas prices and icing out Russia amid its war in Ukraine.

The Hill reported earlier this month that discussions about the visit were taking place but that it was still in the planning stages.

A trip to the kingdom and a meeting with Prince Mohammad would prove controversial, with lawmakers and group’s critical of its dismal human rights record likely to voice opposition.

The larger meeting Biden referred to was likely the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting expected to be held in Riyadh later this month, which is likely to dovetail with an expected visit by Biden to Israel.

Updated: 9:52 p.m.

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