US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says President Joe Biden will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during his controversial upcoming trip to the kingdom.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Granholm was asked if Biden would meet MBS, Granholm said that she believed he would.
“I think he will meet with the Saudi crown prince,” Granholm said.
The US energy secretary said that it was her understanding that the two leaders would be having a meeting.
“But there’s a series of meetings around energy overall. The Saudis are very interested, for example, in developing an expertise around hydrogen, clean hydrogen production. So I think there’s a series of topics related to energy on the table,” Granholm added.
This comes after Biden last week said he was not going to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince, who was accused by American intelligence of ordering the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A team of Saudi operatives murdered Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, 2018. US relations with Saudi Arabia have been strained since the assassination of Khashoggi.
“I’m not going to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I’m going to an international meeting, and he’s going to be part of it,” Biden said.
But on Tuesday, the White House announced the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia would include a meeting with the crown prince.
Biden has also previously said that any potential Saudi trip would not relate to energy.
“The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,” he said.
“It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going,” he said. “And it has to do with national security for them, for Israelis. … It has to do with much larger issues than having to do with the energy piece.”
However, Granholm and the Biden administration have scrambled to address skyrocketing gas prices across the country.
The Biden administration is trying to find ways to lower US gasoline prices. The group of oil-producing nations called OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia, recently agreed to increase oil production to help bring down prices.
The price for a gallon has doubled since Biden took office in January last year, but that same gallon costs $4.983 on Sunday, down slightly from previous records above $5 per gallon, according to data from the non-profit American Automobile Association (AAA). The association said the average gallon of gas cost only $2.39 during the first week of Biden’s presidency.
The gasoline prices are a problem for Biden and his fellow Democrats ahead of the November midterm congressional elections.
Since the beginning of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and the ensuing spikes in oil prices, the US president has made great efforts to control fuel prices as well as isolate Russia.
Many analysts believe that Biden’s current move to travel to Saudi Arabia is in line with the effort.