GLM reported earlier this week that Biden and the crown prince planned to meet in late June as part of a broader summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is currently chaired by Saudi Arabia.
Biden is still expected to travel later this month to Germany and Spain for the G7 and NATO summits, respectively.
Officials determined that two separate trips, one to Europe and one to the Middle East, would allow more time to plan and set a schedule and agenda.
An in-person meeting with Prince Mohammed would mark the first time Biden has directly engaged with the de facto Saudi leader since taking office. Biden has so far chosen to speak directly with King Salman, the father of the crown prince.
The meeting would also be the culmination of months of diplomatic work by the Biden administration to repair the US-Saudi relationship and would represent a sea change for Biden, who once suggested Saudi Arabia become a “pariah” for its human rights record.
The US president has been highly critical of the Saudi human rights record, their war in Yemen, and the role his government played in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden on Friday defended the possibility of meeting with Prince Mohammed.
“I have committed to trying to work on how we can bring more stability and peace in the Middle East and there is a possibility that I will meet with both the Israelis and some Arab countries at that time, including, I hope, it would be Saudi Arabia, I would be included in that if I were,” the president said.
Two key deals were struck on Thursday: OPEC announcing it would increase oil production and extending a truce in Yemen, laying the groundwork for the meeting between Biden and the crown prince.
But even before a formal announcement about the meeting, it has come under scrutiny, including from Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
“President Biden’s decision to meet with MBS is terribly upsetting to me and to supporters of freedom and justice everywhere. President Biden, if he meets with MBS, will have lost his moral compass and will greatly increase my pain,” he said in a statement to GLM, referring to the crown prince by his initials.
9/11 Families United, a group representing family members of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, also urged Biden in a letter Thursday to raise Saudi Arabia’s role in the attack if he meets with Prince Mohammed or other leaders in Riyadh.
On Saturday, the group said it was “pleased” Biden’s long-awaited meeting was delayed.
“We are pleased that President Biden is stepping back and assessing his priorities for this trip to Saudi Arabia,” Terry Strada, the group’s national president, said in a statement. “The 9/11 community looks forward to your engagement with us.”
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