President Biden settled for a fist bump when meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Friday, avoiding the possibility of being photographed in a friendly handshake with the leader of a state he had promised to ostracize. Biden had his fist formed as he walked toward the Saudi leader when arriving from Israel, and the crown prince did not try to shake hands instead, a Washington Post video showed. The leaders met, with aides, at Al-Salam Palace on Friday night about a series of matters. The greeting was an issue because of Biden's tough talk about ensuring Saudi Arabia was treated as "the pariah that they are" over human rights violations, per NPR.
They include the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the Post and was killed in 2018, a crime US intelligence found that the crown prince ordered and that bin Salman has denied. Biden has defended his decision to go to Saudi Arabia anyway, saying he needed to "reorient—but not rupture—relations with a country that's been a strategic partner for 80 years." He declined to commit to raising Khashoggi's slaying or human rights issues in general during the talks. Hatice Cengiz, who was Khashoggi's fiancee, said Biden's visit is "very disappointing for me" in an interview with the AP. She said Biden had promised to be different. "Instead of being different now, he's doing the same and embracing dictators in the region right now," she said.
Aides had said before the trip that Biden would decline to shake with anyone on his Middle East trip, per Bloomberg, for COVID-19 reasons. But then he shattered that plan with several leaders in Israel this week. Biden also shook hands with and hugged Americans just before his trip, including at an event on the White House lawn. The US and Saudi leaders don't have a press conference scheduled so far, so there'll be no more chance of public awkwardness. They would not take questions after their meeting Friday night. When he landed in Saudi Arabia, Biden was greeted by several officials at the airport. The crown prince was not among them. (Read more President Biden stories.)