President Joe Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East next month with visits to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia, the White House announced Tuesday.
The decision to pay a call on Saudi leaders during the July 13-16 trip comes after Biden as a Democratic presidential candidate branded the kingdom a “pariah” because of its human rights record and pledged to recalibrate the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
Biden plans to meet with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. U.S. intelligence officials determined Prince Mohammed likely ordered the brutal 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. After Biden took office, his administration made clear the president would avoid direct engagement with the crown prince and instead focus his engagements with King Salman.