President Biden is weighing a visit to Saudi Arabia this spring to urge the kingdom to pump more oil, according to a report released Monday.
The plan, which has not been confirmed by the White House, comes as oil prices soared by 10% amid U.S. and European threats to ban Russian oil as punishment for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that there are no current plans for Mr. Biden to travel to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter. Oil prices across the globe surged Monday morning, reaching $130 a barrel, the highest level in 13 years.
Officials told Axios, which first reported the potential visit, that the trip is in the early stages and could fall through.
The trip would mark a reversal for Mr. Biden. In 2019, he vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” adding there is a “very little social redeeming value” in the Saudi government.
Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden still stands by those remarks.
“He’s never stood away [from his comments],” Ms. Psaki said. “But it’s also true that there is a war in Yemen, that there are security issues in the Middle East. There are a range of steps we need to engage with all sorts of countries around the world because it’s in our U.S. national security interest.”
He also criticized former President Donald Trump, who mulled a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2020, citing the kingdom’s human rights violations during its war in Yemen and the CIA’s conclusion that it was responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
A U.S. intelligence report concluded that Khashoggi’s killing was approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Saudi government has denied the claims.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle slammed Mr. Biden’s potential trip to Saudi Arabia.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, was among the first to condemn the move.
“Our response to Putin’s immoral war shouldn’t be to strengthen our relationship with the Saudis who are currently causing the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet in Yemen,” Ms. Omar tweeted. “Yemenis might not matter to some geopolitically, but their humanity should. This is [a] wildly immoral act.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said the move boosts the “enemies” of the United States.
“The Biden administration is very, very slowly discovering that alienating allies and boosting enemies is not a great way to conduct foreign policy,” Mr. Cruz tweeted. “All it took were several generational global catastrophes and wars abroad, and 1970s inflation and gas prices at home.”