White House denies claim that Saudi prince refused Biden's call on Ukraine

·Senior Editor
·2 min read

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that a report published in the Wall Street Journal claiming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman refused to take a phone call from President Biden regarding the U.S. ban on Russian oil imports was “inaccurate.”

“That report is inaccurate, so let me start there,” Psaki said during a White House press briefing. “The president did speak with the Saudi king just a few weeks ago, several weeks ago, it’s all running together at this point in time. There were no rebuffed calls, period.”

The Journal quoted an anonymous U.S. official who claimed that bin Salman rebuffed Biden over the lack of U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, as well as the issue of granting bin Salman legal immunity in the U.S. over the brutal killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,” the official told the Journal regarding the alleged call, which according to the source was set up to secure Saudi Arabia’s support for the U.S. ban on Russian oil imports. “It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil].”

In an interview with the Atlantic published last week, bin Salman said that his aim regarding the Saudi relationship with the U.S. was “to keep it and strengthen it.” But asked whether Biden misunderstood him, he added, “Simply, I do not care.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a Gulf summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 2021. (Reuters)

According to the article in the Journal, United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed also declined to speak with Biden. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have so far resisted pressure from the U.S. to help lower gas prices by increasing oil production over amounts already agreed to by OPEC.

In recent days, the Biden administration has contacted Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran with the hope of increasing oil production.

“We have an interest globally in maintaining a ... steady supply of energy, including through diplomatic effort,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. “We have a multiplicity of interests, and use diplomacy to try to advance them.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the administration for prioritizing diplomacy over ramping up U.S. oil production.

“This White House seems determined to go hat in hand and beg every bad actor around the world to ramp up their own fossil fuel production, but still will not stop their holy war against our own American energy production,” McConnell said on Tuesday.