President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shared a fist bump Friday upon the president’s arrival in the Arab kingdom on Friday, an image the Saudis immediately posted on social media.
As a candidate, Mr. Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” globally, after the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey. U.S. intelligence in January 2021the operation “to capture or kill” Khashoggi.
When a U.S. journalist asked the crown prince, known by his initials MBS, Friday if he would apologize to Khashoggi’s family, MBS appeared to smile slightly, saying nothing.
Mr. Biden also shook hands Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Mr. Biden met with the king in a closed-press gathering along with MBS, then Mr. Biden began a meeting with MBS and other Saudi officials.
U.S. officials had signaled the president wouldn’t be shaking hands during his Middle East trip, citing COVID. But Mr. Biden began with fist bumps, then handshakes in Israel, undercutting the administration’s argument.
Ahead of Saudi Arabia stop, U.S. officials left it up to the president how he would greet leaders.
“The president will greet the leaders as he does, and there’s no special rules for one leader or another,” said a senior administration official, asked whether Mr. Biden and MBS would shake hands. “So, I know we’ve gotten this question quite a bit, but for those of us doing the work is really we’re focused on substance of meetings, and not the particular greetings. The president is going to be about a dozen leaders and he will greet them as he usually does.”
Khashoggi’s fiancée tweeted an image of the fist bump, as if it were coming from Khashoggi’s account.
“Hey @POTUS, Is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands,” the tweet read.
The president is meeting with the Saudi king and crown prince as a part of a bilateral meeting, as well as with other heads of state during the Gulf Coast Cooperation or GCC+3 summit this week. U.S. officials have emphasized that the Saudis, while an important player in the Middle East, are just one of the countries present.