US President Joe Biden confirmed on Thursday that he would meet Saudi Arabia's King Salman as well as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he visits Riyadh next month, but stressed the trip is not aimed at pressuring the kingdom to boost oil production amid a global price surge.
Mr Biden placed the primary focus of his July 13-16 trip to the Middle East on relations with Israel and said he would be looking to “deepen Israel's integration with the region”.
He added, however, that he would not press Saudi leaders to increase oil output to help offset soaring crude prices amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The president said that his meetings in Saudi Arabia will be focused on regional issues, as he is expected to meet the leaders of Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and GCC countries there.
Playing down his meetings with Saudi leaders, Mr Biden said he would continue to argue that all Gulf states should be raising oil output, not only Saudi Arabia.
“I've indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production generically, not to the Saudis, particularly,” Mr Biden told reporters.
The US leader is facing mounting anger at home as Americans continue to spend upwards of $100 to fill their cars with petrol, with the surge in petrol prices heaping pressure on the president and Democrats as the November midterm elections approach.
Mr Biden said Americans will have to stomach high prices for “as long as it takes”, tying the pain at the pump to the invasion of Ukraine, reiterating his view that the price increase is entirely due to “Russia, Russia, Russia”.
Rising US petrol prices — in pictures
“As long as it takes, so Russia cannot in fact defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine,” Mr Biden said.
Western sanctions on Russia have resulted in a reduction of oil on world markets.
Before Mr Biden's visit, the White House has sought to play down any direct talks between Mr Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed.
As a presidential candidate, Mr Biden said he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” following the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but his need to reduce oil prices has forced him to request a realpolitikal rapprochement with Riyadh.
A White House official said Mr Biden “looks forward to this important visit to Saudi Arabia, which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly eight decades”.
During his visit, the president will focus on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, including the UN-mediated truce in Yemen as well as expanding regional economic and security co-operation, the official said.
Mr Biden will also hold talks on “deterring threats from Iran, advancing human rights, and ensuring global energy and food security”.
Oil prices dropped after Mr Biden’s comments.