U.S. President Joe Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday (July 15), as Washington seeks to reset relations with a state Biden once promised to make a “pariah”.
Biden gave a fist bump to bin Salman, Saudi state television showed, during a trip to Saudi Arabia that is being watched for body language and rhetoric.
White House officials had worked hard on the optics of the meeting between Biden and the crown prince, known as MbS, who Biden has criticized for his role in the killing of Washington Post journalist and political opponent Jamal Khashoggi.
During the visit to Saudi Arabia, Biden is expected to discuss human rights, one of several issues that strained ties after U.S. intelligence concluded the crown prince directly approved the 2018 murder of Khashoggi. The crown prince denies having any role in the killing.
On arrival in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, Biden was greeted by Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca province and not by the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, or the elderly king.
Typically, the White House releases names ahead of landing of foreign officials who will welcome the president, but this time details only came out after Biden left the airport.
When former U.S. President Donald Trump, who enjoyed close ties with MbS, visited Saudi Arabia in 2017 he was greeted by King Salman, who has made few public appearances recently.
The Mecca governor met France’s president when he visited Jeddah late last year.