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Biden considers visiting oil-rich Saudi Arabia as US gas prices continue to climb

The president has taken an outwardly condemnatory stance toward the Saudi royal family.

Published: June 2, 2022 9:06am

Updated: June 2, 2022 3:54pm

President Biden is considering a trip to Saudi Arabia that would also likely include a meeting between the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and their neighbors. 

Biden, as a 2020 president candidate, publicly shunned Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman, calling him a killer and pledging to keep an arms-length between the U.S. and the Saudis. 

Amid skyrocketing gas prices, however, the administration may be forced to reconsider some of the president's campaign promises and instead focus on relief for U.S. gasoline consumers. 

The White House has not yet confirmed any plans for Biden to swing through the Middle East, a trip that would likely also include a visit to Israel. However, the president is scheduled to travel to Europe at the end of June and could attach a Middle East leg to the end of that visit.

In 2019, Biden said he would make the Saudi crown prince into a "pariah" following the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a critic of the prince. He said that the Saudi rulers would "pay the price" for Khashoggi's brutal killing.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has abided by an oil production cap negotiated primarily between the kingdom and Russia.

The cap has added significantly to oil supply shortages stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia has failed to act to help mitigate the problem despite pleas from Western leaders. However, the kingdom — the de facto leader of OPEC — has reportedly signaled to Western allies that it is prepared to raise oil output. 

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the "president's words still stand" and that the assumption that increased engagement between U.S. and Saudi officials is driven entirely by the need to ease gas prices is a "misunderstanding of both the complexity of that issue, as well as our multifaceted discussions with the Saudis."

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