The White House has shelved Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia after he was slammed over the oil giant’s human rights record – but he will stop in the Middle East in July.
The president, 79, was supposedly traveling to the country as well as Israel following a wider visit to Germany and Spain this month.
But officials revealed to NBC News that his Middle East trip will now be postponed next month without giving a reason.
The plan was never officially announced, but insiders said the itinerary had been passed around other countries and the White House was preparing for the trip.
When asked on Friday about the rumored visit, Biden admitted it was a possibility, but was ‘not sure whether I’m going.’
But he was panned by human rights activists who asked why he was entertaining a country ruled by a crown prince accused of brutality.
Biden’s rumored trip to Saudi Arabia has been postponed until July after the president received backlash for considering a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has called out for reportedly violating human rights
Salman (pictured in October) reported ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He has denied any involvement. Activists are angered that Biden – who said he’d treat the country like a ‘pariah’ – is considering ‘shake hands’ with a man who ‘arrested our loved ones and tortured them, banned many of our family members from travel in order to blackmail us, and harass us here in the US’
Biden said: ‘I have been engaged in trying to work with how we can bring more stability and peace to the Middle East.
‘And there is a possibility that I would be going to meet with both the Israelis and some Arab countries at the time, including, I expect, would be Saudi Arabia, would be included in that if I did go,’ Biden said on Friday.
‘But I have no direct plans at the moment. We’re looking at it.’
An official told NBC: ‘We are working on a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia for a GCC+3 Summit. We are working to confirm dates. When we have something to announce, we will.’
Biden received immense backlash from Saudi dissidents, who called the trip a ‘betrayal’ if the president ‘shakes hands’ with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has called out for reportedly violating human rights.
‘[Salman] killed our friend [journalist Jamal Khashoggi], arrested our loved ones and tortured them, banned many of our family members from travel in order to blackmail us, and harass us here in the US?!,’ activisit Abdullah Alaoudh wrote on Twitter.
Biden has received immense backlash, where activists and family of victims of Saudi’s human rights abuses are calling the president’s trip a ‘betrayal’ if Biden only goes for order and doesn’t mention the crown prince’s allegedly human rights abuses, which he has denied
He received disapproval from a group of relatives who had family killed in 9/11 who told him he needed to bring up more than an oil deal.
They said if he were to travel to the country he would need to bring up ‘accountability’ issues between reported ties between 9/11 hijackers and Saudi.
Salman has received immense scrutiny after allegedly ordering Khashoggi’s killing in 2018. The leader has, however, denied any involvement in the journalist’s death.
Biden had previously claimed he would treat Salman as a ‘pariah,’ but since his administration has face heat to lower the rising cost of fuel – which has reached $10 in some parts of California – he seems to be reconsidering it.
When asked if he would still treat Salman as a ‘pariah,’ Biden told reporters: ‘Look, I’m not gonna change my view on human rights, but as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can.’
However, after Saudi Arabia has rebuked the US’ request to increase oil production to offset the reparations on Russian oil, which may be causing him to try new outreach attempts, the Washington Post reported.
This week, the country did start taking steps to increase oil production.
On Thursday, The White House thanked Saudi and OPEC for its bigger-than-expected oil release.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to increase its output by more than 200,000 barrels a day, the WSJ reported.
At Thursday’s meeting between OPEC and 10 non-OPEC producers, the group known as OPEC+ agreed to raise output by 648,000 barrels a day in July and in August. Previously the output was around 400,000 barrels a day.
Khashoggi was murdered in 2018 and was said to be killed after Salman ordered it. Activists are calling for Biden to demand accountability from the crown prince over his death
‘The United States welcomes the important decision from OPEC+ today to increase supply by more than 200,000 barrels per day in July and August based on new market conditions,’ said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement.
‘This announcement accelerates the end of the current quota arrangement that has been in place since July of last year and brings forward the monthly production increase that was previously planned to take place in September.’
‘We recognize the role of Saudi Arabia as the chair of OPEC+ and its largest producer in achieving this consensus amongst the group members. We also recognize efforts and positive contributions of UAE, Kuwait, and Iraq. The United States will continue to use all tools at our disposal to address energy prices pressures,’ she said.
The US has been plagued with high gas prices after continuously hitting record highs. For the first time in history, all 50 states are above $4 a gallon.
Overnight Friday, gas prices hit a national average of $4.76, according to AAA – a 20 cent increase in a week.
Along the US West Coast, the pain at the pump is even worse, with Californians now seeing an also previously unseen average of $6.24 cents. The state saw gas costs surpass the $6 mark for the first time in history over the weekend.
The nation’s current average gasoline price, $4.76-a-gallon, stands as nearly double the $2.41 average seen during former president Trump’s last month in office. The uptick has seen the price of gas since top $4-a-gallon in each of the 50 states – a marker never before reached
Gas prices have climbed since Biden was elected in November 2020, before skyrocketing earlier this year after the invasion of Ukraine
Those filling up in states like California and have been particularly affected by the rising costs, with the state’s national average having surged by more than $2 in the span of a year
The South is fairing the best, with averages at the lowest between $4.25 and $4.49. The Midwest is hanging on the higher end, while the Great Plains are in the middle.
In addition, the Middle Eastern giant has also been a close economy and military ally to the US, and Biden’s administration has reported found it difficult to it, NBC reported. With tensions over the Iran Nuclear Deal and Israel-Palestinian tensions has kept Saudi close to the president’s team.
But critics are saying it’s more than just about gas prices, but will send a message that the crown prince is unstoppable as long as fuel costs go down.
‘Regardless of who’s in the White House, no one will care about your vices if you can lower gas prices,’ Khalid Aljabri, whose father was a top intelligence officer, told the Washington Post. Aljabri has also accused the crown prince of targeting him for assassination and took his children hostage, he told the Post.
He also said it lets the prince ‘get away with a lot of things,’ even if Democratic administrations, who have been much more critical of Saudi than that of the former Republican White House.
‘But look at them now. They’re coming back,’ he told the Post. ‘The moment [Mohammed bin Salman] feels like he has unconditioned backing from the US, he goes rogue.’