Biden says there is a "possibility" of Saudi Arabia visit
President Biden on Friday said there is a "possibility" he could visit Saudi Arabia on a trip to the Middle East, but he is not "going to change" his "views on human rights" in the kingdom.
Driving the news: The president was responding to questions from reporters about whether he was planning to visit Saudi Arabia and meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who U.S. intelligence has concluded is responsible for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — an allegation Saudi officials reject.
The big picture: Biden once vowed to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" and relations have been strained over a number of issues, including the kingdom's human rights record.
- But the administration has been considering adding a stop in Saudi Arabia as part of his visit to the region at the end of the month, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.
- Two of Biden's senior advisers visited the kingdom last week for talks about a possible arrangement between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on strategic islands in the Red Sea, a deal to increase oil production, and Washington and Riyadh's bilateral relationship, Ravid has learned.
What he's saying: "I am not sure whether I am going [to Saudi Arabia]. I have no direct plans at the moment," Biden told reporters.
- "I have been engaged in trying to work with how we can bring more stability and peace to the Middle East. There is a possibility I would be going to meet both Israel and some Arab countries at the time ... I expect Saudi Arabia would be included in that if I did go. But I have no direct plans at the moment," he said.
- "I am not gonna change my views on human rights but, as president of the U.S., my job is to try to bring peace if I can," Biden said when asked if he still considered Saudi Arabia a pariah.
- Asked if he would meet with MBS if he does visit Saudi Arabia, Biden said: "We're getting ahead of ourselves here. What I want to do is see to it that we diminish the likelihood that there's a continuation of some of the senseless wars between Israel and the Arab nations and that's what I am focused on."