Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was due to embark on a visit to Greece and France on Tuesday, state media reported, his first trip to Europe since the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 drew international condemnation for the powerful crown prince.
Prince Mohammed will meet with French and Greek leaders “to discuss bilateral relations and ways to improve them in various areas”, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement from the royal court.
The trip comes less than two weeks after President Joe Biden traveled to the Saudi city of Jeddah for an Arab leaders’ summit and met one-on-one with Prince Mohammed, giving him a thumbs-up. .
The move sealed Biden’s withdrawal from a presidential campaign promise to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” on the Khashoggi case and broader human rights controversies.
US intelligence agencies have determined that Prince Mohammed “approved” of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death, although Riyadh denies this, blaming rogue agents.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an energy price spike earlier this year, Saudi Arabia came under pressure from Washington and European powers to pump in more oil.
High oil prices have been a key driver of inflation in the United States, which has hit 40-year highs, putting pressure on the Biden administration ahead of the midterm elections later this year.
But the world’s biggest crude exporter resisted pressure to turn on the supply taps, citing its commitment to production schedules determined by the OPEC+ export bloc it co-leads with Russia.
In May, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom had done what it could for the oil market.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron received the new president of the energy-rich United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in Paris.
During the trip, officials announced an agreement between French energy giant Total Energies and UAE national oil company ADNOC “for cooperation in the field of energy supply”.