(Washington) Joe Biden will meet Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of discussions with a Saudi delegation, the White House said Thursday, downplaying the scope of this meeting after the diplomatic crisis caused by the assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The US President “will participate in a bilateral meeting with King Salman and his leadership team and […] the crown prince is part of that team,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
According to Mr. Kirby, this is the only meeting scheduled for the hour between the prince, known as “MBS”, and Mr. Biden during his visit to Saudi Arabia next week.
For observers, this meeting will devote the international rehabilitation of the prince, largely isolated after the assassination of the Saudi journalist and critic of the regime Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
US intelligence accuses MBS of having “validated” the assassination in Istanbul of the columnist of the washington postwhich Riyadh has always denied.
Joe Biden had felt, before his election to the White House, that Saudi Arabia should be treated as a “pariah” state and he had made it known that he refused to exchange directly with “MBS”.
A key player
But soaring energy prices linked to the war in Ukraine and regional tensions linked to Iran’s ballistic and nuclear programs have changed the situation, and the young prince of 36 years has once again become a key player in the Middle East.
During this visit to the main Arab ally of the United States in the region, Joe Biden will also discuss “strengthened regional collaboration, particularly on air defense”, said John Kirby.
The president has planned to attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a diplomatic forum bringing together several Arab countries in the region.
“We continue to work on integrated air defense frameworks and capabilities across this region” due to “concerns about Iran and its growing ballistic missile capabilities, not to mention its support for regional terrorism,” Kirby added. .
Tehran, a close ally of the Syrian regime, Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, all three sworn enemies of Israel, is accused of supporting Houthi rebels militarily in Yemen.
“We are talking bilaterally with countries in the region about air defense capabilities and we are exploring the idea of integrating these capabilities” into a common framework “to really improve the (air) cover against the growing Iranian threat”, explained the spokesperson.