STORY: "The president's going to Saudi for the GCC, the GCC plus three. To be honest, it's nine states in the region. There's a big agenda there, Caitlin, on the Gulf Cooperation Council. It's counterterrorism. It's climate change. Certainly it's oil production obviously is going to be on the agenda," Kirby said.
U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia have been under strain since the 2018 murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a team of Saudi operatives in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Biden had refused to deal directly with Prince Mohammed bin Salman following a U.S. intelligence report implicating him in the killing. The Saudi government denied any involvement by the prince, saying the murder was a heinous crime by a rogue group.
But Washington's desire to improve ties with Gulf monarchies has become more urgent following Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which highlighted the relevance of Gulf oil producers as Europe looks to cut its energy dependence on Russia.
"He will have a bilateral meeting with King Salman and King Salman's leadership team. And the crown prince is on that leadership team. So you can expect that he'll see the crown prince," Kirby told the press conference.
Biden's July 15-16 visit to the kingdom, where he is also due to attend a summit of Arab leaders, ends his campaign pledge to make the kingdom a pariah as he struggles to combat high U.S. gasoline prices and build a united international front to isolate Russia.