JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — US President Joe Biden’s fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was drawing criticism even before his meeting with the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia concluded on Friday.
US intelligence agencies said the crown prince, known as MBS, ordered the 2018 killing of journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi.
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, tweeted a screenshot imagining what he would have said in response to the meeting, reading “the blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands.”
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said “One fist bump is worth a thousand words.”
He added: “If we ever needed a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on US foreign policy in the Middle East, we got it today.”
The fist bump marked the first time Biden has met the crown prince since he took office. The brief encounter, which was captured by Saudi television, occurred as Biden stepped out of his presidential limousine in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, having flown in from Israel.
After taking office last year, Biden’s administration released US intelligence findings that the Saudi crown prince “approved” an operation targeting Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate sparked global outrage.
Saudi officials deny the prince’s involvement and say Khashoggi’s death resulted from a “rogue” operation. But it marred the crown prince’s reputation as a potential reformer.
Biden now appears ready to re-engage with a country that has been a key strategic ally of the United States for decades, a major supplier of oil and an avid buyer of weapons.
Washington wants the world’s largest exporter of crude to open the floodgates to bring down soaring gasoline prices, which threaten Democratic chances in November mid-term elections.