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Biden to meet with MBS during Saudi visit, says US energy secretary

Contradicting the US president, Jennifer Granholm says she thinks Biden will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during upcoming trip
US President Joe Biden has said that he will not meet with the crown prince during his trip to Saudi Arabia (AFP/File photo)

The US energy secretary has said that she believes President Joe Biden will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his upcoming trip to the kingdom, contradicting statements made by the US president just days ago. 

Jennifer Granholm, in an interview with CNN on Sunday, said that she thinks President Biden will meet with the crown prince, also known as MBS, during the US leader's controversial upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia.

"I think he will meet with the Saudi crown prince," Granholm said during the televised interview. 

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When asked specifically about the possibility of a one-on-one meeting between Biden and the crown prince on Sunday, Granholm said that it was her understanding that such a meeting would take place. 

"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 said.

Biden, however, told reporters on Friday that he was not going to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince, whose critics have accused him of a dismal human rights record, including the 2018 killing and dismemberment of US resident and journalist Jamal 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," the president said at the time.

Biden's upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia has been one of contention and contradictions, as earlier last week the Biden administration announced that the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia would indeed include a meeting with MBS. 

Biden has also said on the record that any potential meetings in Saudi Arabia would not have the subject of energy on the agenda. 

"The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy," he said before officially confirming his travel plans. 

"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."

Meanwhile, Granholm and the Biden administration have scrambled to bring down skyrocketing gas prices across the country, so far failing to do so as the national average for a gallon of gas continues to sit near records of above $5 per gallon.

Still, rights groups have voiced concerns that Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia is opening the door for the normalisation of relations with the kingdom before accountability for a series of human rights violations and problematic policies has been reached. 

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the crown prince would travel there next week on his first visit since the Khashoggi killing at the kingdom's Istanbul embassy - marking the latest sign of warming relations between the two countries.

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