President Joe Biden said Friday that gas prices across the U.S. “have been coming down every single day to the best of my knowledge” but cautioned that his visit to Saudi Arabia may not have an immediate impact on what Americans are paying at the pump.
The Biden administration has said that record high rates of U.S. inflation aren’t yet reflecting falling gas prices, which have been dropping in many parts of the country since mid-June. Asked about whether his trip to the Middle East would further accelerate those declines, Biden responded: “I suspect you won’t see that for another couple of weeks.”
Speaking to reporters, the president was also asked about Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to a White House backed energy plan that Biden says can lower costs while also combating climate change.
Manchin’s refusing to support the plan could mean it won’t pass the Senate. Biden said, “I didn’t negotiate with Joe Manchin,” but added of his climate change goals, “I’m not going away.”
Biden vowed to use “every power I have as president” to move the U.S. toward greener energy.
In other matters, Biden said he raised the “outrageous” murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during his meeting on Friday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who U.S. intelligence officials say ordered his killing.
Biden said the de facto leader of the kingdom “basically said that he was not personally responsible for it.” He added, “I indicated I thought he was.”
The U.S. leader said he was also “straightforward and direct” with MBS about human rights issues broadly. “For an American president to be silent of the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” Biden said.
Biden said “I don’t regret anything” about his comments as a presidential candidate when he pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” in response to Khashoggi’s killing. He underwent the trip to Saudi Arabia in an effort to rebuild ties as global energy prices have soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said he couldn’t guarantee that MBS or other elements of the Saudi state wouldn’t murder dissidents again, but pledged a strong response.
Meanwhile, Biden is also announcing that peacekeepers will depart the Red Sea island of Tiran by the end of the year, in the latest sign that Saudi Arabia and Israel are inching toward normalization.
The island, controlled by Egypt before being ceded to Saudi Arabia in 2017, has hosted American troops as part of the Multinational Force and Observers since 1981 after Israel and Egypt reached a peace accord.
The decision to withdraw the peacekeeping force and allow the island’s redevelopment for tourism required approval from Israel, which has grown closer with erstwhile enemy Saudi Arabia in recent years over shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and malign regional activities.
The announcement comes as Biden makes his first visit to the Middle East as president and hours after Saudi Arabia lifted its overflight restrictions on flights to or from Israel using its airspace.
Biden says Saudi Arabia is also pledging to work to “extend and strengthen” the U.N.-mediated truce in Yemen, which has put a years-long civil war that caused one of the globe’s worst humanitarian crises on pause. The kingdom will also provide over $1 billion in new development assistance to Yemen.
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