President Joe Biden welcomed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by shaking his hand during the G20’s annual summit on Saturday in New Delhi, despite a somewhat tense relationship between the two.
World leaders at the summit discussed an international infrastructure project that would connect India, the Middle East and Europe with railways, shipping lines, high-speed data cables and energy pipelines. Saudi Arabia is set to be a part of the initiative due to a push from the Biden administration to complete its “mega-deal” with the country that included normalization between the kingdom and Israel, Axios reported on Saturday. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed said that the kingdom will take part in the project with a $20 billion investment.
For Biden, the possible Saudi-Israel peace agreement would mean a historic foreign policy achievement the White House has been pushing. However, the president has also had his criticisms towards Saudi Arabia as he has previously said Saudi Arabia’s government has “very little social redeeming value,” and that it had murdered “children…and innocent people” in Yemen.
“Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil,” Biden said in October 2020 when he was running for president.
During his presidential campaign, Biden also pledged that his administration would seek to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are” and signaled that “they have to be held accountable” for its human rights abuses.
Another point of major tension between the two countries has also been seen with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and fierce critic of the Saudi regime who was killed by Saudi government agents in Istanbul in 2018. Biden, meanwhile, angered Saudi officials by releasing a U.S. intelligence report that determined Crown Prince Mohammad likely approved the journalist’s killing.
More criticisms from Biden came after Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut oil production last October, as Biden announced there would be “consequences” for the Saudi government and a need to reevaluate the relationship between the two countries.
“There’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done,” Biden said after the Saudis agreed to cut production by 2 million barrels a day, which the crown prince supported.
However, that relationship seems unchanged as Biden continues to aim for peace.
As part of this new international infrastructure project, the president said on Saturday that it will make it easier to trade and export, transfer clean energy and provide fast and stable internet service to countries in the Middle East.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal. This project will contribute to making the Middle East a more prosperous, stable and integrated region,” Biden said, according to Axios.
Newsweek has reached out to the Biden administration for comment via email.