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Saudi, Emirati leaders decline calls from Biden during Ukraine crisis

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the UAE both declined US requests to speak with President Biden in recent weeks.

3 mins read

The White House sought unsuccessfully to arrange talks between President Biden and the de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the US was seeking to rally international support for Ukraine and limit a surge in oil prices.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the UAE both declined US requests to speak with President Biden in recent weeks, according to the officials, as Saudi and Emirati officials have become more vocal in their criticism of American policy in the Gulf.

On February 9, Biden spoke with King Salman and the two men reaffirmed their nations’ long-standing relationship. The call between Biden and Sheikh Mohammed would be rescheduled, according to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As oil prices hit $130 a barrel for the first time in over 14 years, the White House has tried to restore relations with two important Middle Eastern countries it needs on its side. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the only two major oil producers with the potential to pump millions of more barrels of oil.

Late last month, both Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s Middle East coordinator, and Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s energy envoy, flew to Riyadh to try to patch up relations with Saudi authorities. In Abu Dhabi, McGurk spoke with Sheikh Mohammed in an attempt to allay Emirati concerns about the US reaction to the Houthi strikes.

The Saudis and Emiratis, on the other hand, have refused to pump extra oil, claiming that they are adhering to a production plan agreed upon by their organization, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and a group of other producers led by Russia. The energy partnership with Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers, has strengthened OPEC’s position while also drawing Saudi and Emirati officials closer to Moscow.

After rejecting to talk with Biden, both Prince Mohammed and Sheikh Mohammed took phone conversations from Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

Jen Psaki, a White House spokesperson, said earlier this week that there were no plans to talk to Prince Mohammed about oil anytime soon and that Biden would not be travelling to Saudi Arabia.

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