Joe Biden to visit Saudi Arabia as OPEC+ boosts oil production

UNITED STATES.- President Joe Biden has decided to travel to Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks and is expected to meet with the kingdom’s crown prince, whom he once shunned for his brutality. It’s a visit in the making as OPEC+ announced Thursday that it will pump more oil amid rising energy costs around the world.

Biden’s first trip to the Saudi kingdom as president is likely to occur later this month, but details have not been finalized, a person familiar with the planning told The Associated Press.

The White House on Thursday praised Saudi Arabia for its role in securing OPEC+’s promise to pump more oil and the president himself praised the Saudis for agreeing to an extension of the ceasefire in their eight-year war with Yemen that has also ended. announced Thursday.

“Saudi Arabia demonstrated courageous leadership by taking initiatives early on to support and implement the terms of the UN-led truce,” Biden said in a statement after the 60-day extension to the ceasefire was announced.

Those warm words stand in stark contrast to some of Biden’s earlier rhetoric about the oil-rich kingdom. As a candidate, he vowed to treat the Saudis as a “pariah” for the 2018 murder and dismemberment of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s brutal ways. US intelligence officials determined that the Saudi crown prince likely approved of the journalist’s killing.

Biden administration officials have been working behind the scenes to mend relations, discussing shared strategic interests in security and oil with their Saudi counterparts.

The effort has unfolded in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the world’s No. 2 crude exporter after Saudi Arabia, and a Saudi-Russian negotiated cap on oil production has pushed up crude prices. and has sent the prices Americans pay at the pump to record highs.

Biden and the Democrats face growing voter anger over high prices, making oil supply shortages a major political liability.

Calls by the United States and its allies to the OPEC+ group (OPEC countries plus Russia) to boost output more appeared to pay off on Thursday. OPEC nations announced they would increase production by 648,000 barrels a day in July and August, offering modest relief to a struggling world economy.

The increase did not appear to ease concerns about supply shortages. Oil prices rose after OPEC+ announced the increase.

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre acknowledged what she said was Saudi Arabia’s role “in achieving consensus” within the oil-producing bloc. She also thanked the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq.

Jean-Pierre also directly cited “the leadership of King Salman and the crown prince” in Thursday’s announcement of a prolonged UN ceasefire in Yemen, where Saudi-led forces have waged an unsuccessful war to defeat Saudi Arabia. the Houthi rebels in that country.

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The White House is weighing a Biden visit that would also include a meeting of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, according to the person familiar with the White House planning, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the trip that has not yet been finalized.

Video of the explosion near the track of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix