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The White House on Monday said oil production is “not the focus” of conversations Biden administration officials will have with Saudi Arabia.
“I’m saying it’s not, it’s not, it’s not the focus,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday, adding that it is “not… on the agenda.”
“That’s something for OPEC to decide, clearly. Saudi Arabia chairs that, and so, we just want to be very clear on that,” she added.
With regard to oil or gas prices, Jean-Pierre said, “We do not get involved in any of that.”
“That is not the conversations that we have with Saudi Arabia,” she said. “That is not part of our agenda when we have discussions with them.”
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel and its extended group of allied producers known as OPEC+ agreed Thursday to ramp up oil production this summer after months of resistance amid soaring global energy prices.
The group, which includes Russia, said it would boost output by 648,000 per day in July and August, a higher-than-expected increase after previously sticking to a more gradual schedule of increased output agreed to last year following cuts made during the pandemic. The oil-producing nations have been pumping an additional 432,000 barrels of crude for months, up from 400,000.
The Biden administration celebrated the OPEC+ decision. The U.S. had been pushing for OPEC+ to make just such a move as Americans face record-high gasoline prices that are driving inflation.
Jean-Pierre, meanwhile, said the White House has “no travel to announce today” with regard to any potential plans for the president to go to Saudi Arabia.
“But I can assure you that what the president is focused on is first and foremost is how his engagements with foreign leaders advance American interests,” she said. “That is that as true with Saudi Arabia than anywhere else than with anyone else, just as he has engaged recently with leaders of ASEAN in Asia.”
Jean-Pierre added that there “was a visit in the works.”
“But it wasn’t moved or postponed,” she said. “It was that the reporting is actually not accurate.”
“We were still having discussions,” she continued.
Last week, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported that Biden would travel to Saudi Arabia later this month — even amid his repeated promises to hold the country accountable for human rights violations.
Reports suggested Biden would meet with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Biden previously promised to make the kingdom a global “pariah” due to its mistreatment of human beings, violations of international law and open hostility to the U.S. — including the killing of a Washington Post journalist.
“We were going to in fact make [Saudi Arabia] pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are,” Biden said in a 2019 presidential primary debate.
Former President Trump visited Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip as president and didn’t sour to the Arab nation after the killing of Saudi Arabia native and U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a contributor for the Washington Post, was killed in 2018 by Saudi security officials, though the suspected ties to Mohammed bin Salman did not affect President Trump’s relationship with the crown prince.
Democrats took Trump to task for not taking the killing more seriously.
Biden intended to overhaul Saudi Arabian diplomacy over the incident, which was supposed to include sidestepping the crown prince.
“We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” former White House press secretary Psaki said at the beginning of Biden’s term.