US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, a State Department spokesman told CNN, the latest step in rapprochement between the US government and the de facto leader of a key US ally.
The two men “affirmed their shared commitment to advancing stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Tuesday.
Miller said the commitment included a “comprehensive political agreement to achieve peace, prosperity and security in Yemen,” adding that Blinken “underscored that our bilateral relationship is strengthened by progress on human rights.”
Relations between the two countries have soured in recent years following the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for which a US intelligence report blamed the crown prince. But after oil prices fluctuated over the past year, with Saudi Arabia announcing this week it would cut oil output starting in July as part of producers’ efforts to keep crude prices up, the Biden administration has sought to re-engage with the kingdom.
During the meeting, Blinken and bin Salman “discussed deepening economic cooperation, particularly in the areas of clean energy and technology,” Miller said in a statement.
Blinken also thanked the crown prince “for Saudi Arabia’s support in evacuating hundreds of US citizens from Sudan and for the Kingdom’s continued partnership in diplomatic negotiations to end the fighting there,” the statement said.
A State Department trip summary said Blinken “will meet with Saudi officials to discuss US-Saudi Arabia strategic cooperation on regional and global issues, as well as a range of bilateral issues, including economic and security cooperation,” and attend meetings of the US-Gulf Cooperation Council. and the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday afternoon and will travel to Riyadh on Wednesday for further meetings.
Speaking to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on Monday, Blinken also said that normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be a topic of conversation during his visit.
The output cut announced by Saudi Arabia over the weekend was the biggest in years and will reduce its output to 9 million barrels per day. It came after a meeting in Vienna of a bloc known as OPEC+, which includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and other smaller producers.
Asked to comment on the decision to cut output ahead of Blinken’s visit, State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel noted that gasoline prices in the US have generally declined from their highs of a year ago.
“We believe that supply must match demand, and we will continue to work with all producers and consumers to ensure that energy markets support economic growth and lower prices for American families,” Patel said at the briefing. “That’s what we focus on.”
During the campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia “who they are” on the world stage and “make them pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder. But he reneged on that vow, visiting the country last year and punching the crown prince, providing a photo opportunity for the Saudi government and angering rights groups.
At the time, the president defended his actions, saying his visit to Saudi Arabia was critical to US security.
“As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and safe. We must counter Russian aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to compete with China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world,” Biden wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“To do these things, we must work directly with countries that can affect those outcomes,” he wrote.
Months after Biden’s visit, the United States decided that Bin Salman should be granted immunity in the case filed against him by Khashoggi’s fiancee.