Saudi king, not de facto leader MBS, will get first Biden call: White House
February 17, 2021 02:45 AM
Saudi Arabia's king, not the younger de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will be the one getting a first phone call from US President Joe Biden, the White House said Tuesday.
Biden is using telephone diplomacy to underline the break with Donald Trump's Mideast policies.
Although he has reached out to US allies in every corner of the world, he has pointedly kept Israeli and Saudi leaders waiting by the phone.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that when Biden does finally reach out to the Saudis, it won't be to the crown prince, known as MBS, who had an especially close relationship with the Trump administration. "We've made clear from the beginning that we're going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia," Psaki said, and "part of that is going back to engagement counterpart-to-counterpart."
"The president's counterpart is King Salman," she said. Psaki once again made clear the Biden administration's lack of a rush in getting hold of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- another of Trump's closest foreign partners.
"Let me confirm for you that his first call with a leader in the region will be Prime Minister Netanyahu," she said. "I don't have an exact date for you but it is soon."
Psaki said the personal chill did not reflect any shift in US commitment to the "important strategic security relationship" with Israel and the "critical self-defence needs" of Saudi Arabia.