After weeks of speculation, the White House confirmed Tuesday that President Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia as part of his first presidential trip to the Middle East.
Biden is slated to attend the Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council July 13-16 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He will also visit Israel and the West Bank.
The announcement comes after Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state during the primaries leading to the 2020 presidential election. Biden’s comments as a candidate came nearly a year after Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated. Prince Mohammed bin Salman admitted he had some responsibility for Khashoggi’s killing.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday the White House was planning the trip, but the visit was not confirmed.
“And so, in this -- in this particular case, if this were to happen or when we are ready to announce, if and when we are ready to announce, it’s -- it’s -- would be about -- about diplomacy -- leading through diplomacy to bring stability to the Middle East region, which he has talked about himself,” she said.
Biden’s visit comes as gas prices reach $5 a gallon in the U.S. According to federal data, Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-largest producer of oil. The U.S. is the top producer of oil.
“The President looks forward to outlining his affirmative vision for U.S. engagement in the region over the coming months and years,” Jean-Pierre said following the announcement.”
The Saudi Arabian government said Biden will meet bin Salman during the presidential visit. The White House has not confirmed this detail.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks forward to welcoming President Biden and defining the next chapters of our partnership. At a time of global challenges related to the global economy, health, climate and international conflict, the partnership between our two countries is as critical as ever to the promotion of peace, prosperity and stability around the world," Saudi Arabia's U.S. embassy said in a statement.