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Biden is planning visit to ‘pariah’ Saudi Arabia as price of oil soars

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In 2020, Mr Biden said Saudi Arabia should be treated as a pariah and would 'pay the price' for the death of reporter Jamal Khashoggi. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

In 2020, Mr Biden said Saudi Arabia should be treated as a pariah and would 'pay the price' for the death of reporter Jamal Khashoggi. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

In 2020, Mr Biden said Saudi Arabia should be treated as a pariah and would 'pay the price' for the death of reporter Jamal Khashoggi. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia later this month in a diplomatic about-turn after he previously called for the kingdom to be made a pariah on the world stage.

It comes after the country agreed to boost oil production and extend a truce in Yemen, but also as the US tries to isolate Russia diplomatically.

The decision follows Boris Johnson’s visit to Saudi Arabia in March, when he held a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for almost two hours.

Mr Johnson said he had raised human rights issues and “things are changing”.

Mr Biden is due to meet the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, who was accused by US intelligence of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident US-based journalist, in 2018.

During the 2020 election campaign, Mr Biden called for Saudi leaders to be treated as “the pariah that they are” and said they would “pay the price” for Mr Khashoggi’s death.

Mr Khashoggi, who had criticised the crown prince in the Washington Post, was lured to a Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was killed. Shortly after taking office, Mr Biden released an intelligence report that suggested the crown prince authorised the attack.

The US president imposed visa restrictions on Saudis accused of threatening dissidents and also scaled back support for a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen.

The US is facing rapidly rising petrol prices, which many voters blame on Mr Biden.

White House officials see it as a contributing factor to the president’s low approval rating. If prices remain high, it will help Republicans in midterm elections in November.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia agreed to increase oil production by more than expected. US officials also said the country had been supportive in diplomacy that led to an extension of a truce between Yemen’s Riyadh-backed government and Houthi rebels.

In a statement, Mr Biden said: “Saudi Arabia demonstrated courageous leadership by taking initiatives early on to endorse and implement terms of the UN-led truce.”

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Mr Biden is also keen to counter recent visits to Saudi Arabia by Russian and Chinese officials.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was there this week.

Mr Biden’s visit is expected to happen around the time he heads to Europe for Nato and G7 summits.

The meeting with Saudi leaders would ease tensions between the US and the world’s leading oil exporter.

A top official said “much” of the concern over Saudi actions “predated our administration”.

Mr Biden refused to confirm the trip, but said: “Look, I’m not going to change my view on human rights. But, as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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