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Biden in talks to meet Saudi Crown Prince for first time

Person, Human, Crowd Thomson Reuters/SAUDI PRESS AGENCY
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

US President Joe Biden and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could meet for the first time as soon as next month, CNN reported on Thursday, citing multiple sources.

Biden administration officials are in talks with the Saudis about arranging a potential in-person meeting while Biden is overseas next month, the report added.

The White House said it could not confirm if there were any plans for Biden to meet the Saudi crown prince. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday he discussed the issue of oil production with Saudi Arabia.

US-Saudi ties have been strained by Biden’s decisions last year to curtail US support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and to publish intelligence that the crown prince, who is the kingdom’s de facto ruler, approved an operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in Turkey in 2018.

The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince, who is known as MBS, in the murder of Khashoggi. The journalist, a US resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of MBS, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Relations between the United States and the world’s largest oil exporter have also been frayed by Biden’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which US allies in the Gulf argue does too little to prevent Tehran from getting an atomic bomb.

Washington has also been trying, so far without success, to persuade Saudi Arabia to pump more oil beyond the small increase it has agreed within the OPEC+ production group to offset potential losses in Russian supplies after Moscow was sanctioned by the West over its invasion of Ukraine. Saudi Arabia has refused to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.