Joe Biden publicly clasped hands with Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia at the G20 summit on Saturday, a year after the president was criticised for fist-bumping the crown prince, who U.S. intelligence believes ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The most recent interaction between the leaders took place in New Delhi, India, where they proclaimed the participation of their respective nations in an international infrastructure and economic partnership to promote the new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.
“This is a game-changing regional investment,” Biden said at the event, flanked by other international leaders. During the G20 summit, which continues through Sunday, Biden is expected to meet with bin Salman.
Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post who frequently criticised the Saudi government. After entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018, he was discovered dismembered in 2018. Under the Trump administration, the CIA released a report concluding that bin Salman ordered the murder.
After meeting with MBS at Al Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah in July 2022 to discuss U.S. energy priorities, Vice President Biden shrugged off a reporter’s inquiry about their fist-bumping greeting.
The publisher of The Washington Post at the time, Fred Ryan, described the interaction as “shameful.”
Critics of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, which includes severe religious restrictions, state-sanctioned torture, and media repression, have attacked the relationship between the two leaders.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia and Russia extended voluntary limits to oil production through the end of the year, causing oil barrel prices to surge to levels not seen since November. If the cuts persist, this tension could impact the 2024 U.S. presidential election, given that energy policy and oil prices have been a dominant theme in political attacks on the Biden administration’s economic management.
Biden and bin Salman sat with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the G20 summit. The economic partnership is viewed as a counterweight to China’s New Silk Road infrastructure initiative, which spans Europe, Africa, and Asia. Premier Li Qiang, who represented China at the summit, did not attend the G20 meeting.
The White House stated in a press release, “We intend to usher in a new era of connectivity by constructing a railway linked to ports connecting Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.” The United States reaffirms its unwavering commitment to pursing transformative regional investments and collaborating with its partners to develop this corridor.