Biden fist bumps Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid criticism of meeting

Continuing his first visit to the Middle East as President, Joe Biden on Friday shared a fist bump with Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ahead of their much-anticipated meeting despite criticism of Saudi Arabia's halt.
Biden is meeting separately with the prince's father, King Salman, the White House said.
PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman punches President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Al Salman Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court via Reuters)
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The President descended from Air Force One just after 11 a.m. ET and onto a lavender carpet in Jeddah, descended the steps and was immediately greeted by two people. He banged his fist on the first greeter and shook hands with others. The President then walked up to the beast and stopped to greet several other officials who lined up for his arrival, accompanied by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
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Sullivan declined to say earlier this week whether the public would see the president and crown prince shake hands, and Biden has repeatedly declined to say whether he blamed the murder of the Saudi dissident and Washington columnist Post, Jamal Khashoggi, in 2018 - despite immense pressure to snub the leader over alleged human rights atrocities, especially since a US intelligence report revealed that Mohammad bin Salman directly authorized the 2018 assassination operation at a Saudi embassy in Turkey .
PHOTO: President Joe Biden is greeted by Saudi Arabian officials as he arrives at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia July 15, 2022. (Evan Vucci/AP)
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As a presidential candidate, Biden vowed to make oil-rich Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state over the Khashoggi assassination, but the rapprochement on US-Saudi Arabia ties comes at a time when gas prices are soaring have been shot as the West has sought to boycott Russian oil, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections and while Biden faces calls to balance security interests with human rights concerns.
MORE: Question over handshake symbolizes Biden's clumsy approach to Saudi Arabia
Biden has defended his trip to the oil-rich nation, writing in an op-ed for The Washington Post published ahead of his visit: "My goal has been to realign -- but not sever -- ties with a country that has been a strategic partner for 80 years."
"As President, my job is to keep our country strong and secure," he wrote. "We must confront Russia's aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outperform China, and work to bring stability to an important region of the world."
MORE: Biden won't say if he will bring up Khashoggi murder when he meets with Saudis
PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives President Joe Biden at Al Salman Palace upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court via Reuters)
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But Sullivan on Friday before the meeting downplayed any chance of an agreement by Saudi Arabia to increase oil production as a result of Biden's meeting in the kingdom.
"I don't think you should expect any specific announcement bilaterally here," he told reporters on AF1. "We're going to discuss energy security at this meeting," he said broadly when asked if the public could expect an agreement.
PHOTO: President Joe Biden is welcomed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah on July 15, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
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Since taking office, Biden has spoken twice to King Salman, the father of the crown prince, who officially rules the country but had dispatched Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to act as his government's point of contact with the crown prince, in what was widely seen as a snub to the powerful Saudi leader.
On Saturday, Biden plans to attend a summit of Arab leaders in Jeddah, a meeting that the crown prince will also attend, though it's not yet clear how the two leaders will interact or engage there.
MORE: 7 things to watch out for in Biden's trip to Israel, Saudi Arabia
Biden noted in his comment that he would be the first US president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, describing it as a "small symbol" of deepening ties between Israel and the Arab world.
Biden bangs his fist on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the meeting was initially criticized on abcnews.go.com

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