Biden’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman pushed back to July

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CNN reported earlier this week that Biden and the crown prince planned to meet in late June as part of a larger Gulf Cooperation Council summit, which Saudi Arabia currently chairs.

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 establish a schedule and agenda.

A face-to-face meeting with Prince Mohammed would mark the first time Biden has engaged directly with the de facto Saudi leader since taking office. Biden has so far opted to speak directly with King Salman, the crown prince’s father.
The meeting would also be the culmination of months of diplomatic work by the Biden administration to mend U.S.-Saudi relations and represent a turnaround for Biden, who once suggested Saudi Arabia become a “pariah” for its record in matters of human rights.
The US president has strongly criticized the Saudis’ human rights record, its war in Yemen and its government’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden on Friday defended the prospect of a meeting with Prince Mohammed.

“I tried to work on how we can bring more stability and peace to the Middle East and it is possible that I will meet at the time both the Israelis and some Arab countries – including, I I expect it to be Saudi Arabia, would be included if I went,” the president said.

Two key deals were reached on Thursday — with OPEC announcing it would increase oil production and extending a truce in Yemen — that set the stage for Biden to meet the crown prince.

But even before an official reunion announcement, she caught the eye, including of Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

“President Biden’s decision to meet with MBS is horribly 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 greatly increased my grief “, she said in a statement to CNN, referring to the crown prince by his initials.

9/11 Families United, a group representing family members of those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, also urged Biden in a letter Thursday to raise Saudi Arabia’s role in the attack. he was meeting Prince Mohammed or other leaders in Riyadh.

On Saturday, the group said it was “pleased” that Biden’s scheduled meeting had been pushed back.

“We are pleased that President Biden is taking a step back and assessing his priorities for this trip to Saudi Arabia,” Terry Strada, the group’s national chairman, said in a statement. “The 9/11 community looks forward to their engagement with us.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.

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