Biden signals warmer ties to Saudi Arabia

US President Joe Biden signaled a shift towards warmer relations with Saudi Arabia during a visit to the Gulf state. The development comes amid continued concerns over human rights abuses in the kingdom.

Biden landed in Jeddah, western Saudi Arabia, on Friday. He met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The president and the crown prince greeted each other with a thumbs up instead of shaking hands.

Biden previously criticized the crown prince for his role in the murder of a Washington Post journalist critical of the Saudi government. Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Turkey by Saudi agents in 2018. The crown prince has denied any involvement.

After the meeting, Biden told reporters he had made his views on Khashoggi’s killing “clear”. He said: “For an American president to remain silent on a human rights issue is inconsistent with who we are and who I am.

Biden said he also discussed oil and energy and expressed hope for Saudi Arabia to increase production in the coming weeks.

He welcomed the country’s decision to open its airspace to all civilian aircraft, including those to and from Israel. The two countries do not have official diplomatic relations.

Biden’s visit appears to show that Washington has turned to improving relations with Saudi Arabia amid growing energy and security concerns.