US President Biden will hold bilateral talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his leadership team, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, when he visits the Middle East next week, says the White House.

Biden's sensitive trip will test his ability to reset ties with Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince.
Biden's sensitive trip will test his ability to reset ties with Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince. (Reuters Archive)

US President Joe Biden will hold talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when the former visits the oil-rich nation next week, the White House has said.

"The president will sit down in a bilateral meeting with King Salman and his leadership team. As you know, the crown prince is on that leadership team," John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman at the White House, told reporters on Thursday.

"So certainly the president will be seeing the crown prince in the context of that larger bilateral discussion."

While Biden is expected to press for increased Saudi oil production in the hope of taming spiraling fuel costs and inflation at home, his visit signals a shift: an apparent move toward mending relations after the Jamal Khashoggi incident in a Saudi consulate in Türkiye.

Last month Biden himself had sought to distance himself from the upcoming encounter, stressing to reporters he was going to meet with King Salman and his team.

"I'm not going to meet with MBS," Biden told reporters.

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Countering Iran

Prior to attending a regional meeting in Saudi Arabia, Biden will visit Israel and the occupied West Bank during his July 13-16 trip.

The White House emphasised Biden will address "greater collaboration" in the Middle East region on issues such as air defence, particularly with regards to countering Iran.

"We're continuing to work on integrated air defence capabilities and frameworks across the region," Kirby said.

"Because you know the whole region is concerned about Iran and their burgeoning and growing ballistic missile capabilities, not to mention their continued support for terrorism across the region."

He said the US delegation will address what it can do to assist allies.

"And then exploring the idea of being able to kind of integrate all those air defences together, so that there truly is a more effective coverage to deal with the growing Iranian threat," he added.

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Source: AFP