Two senior White House advisors on Tuesday met in secret with senior Saudi officials to discuss a deal to increase oil production, three current and former U.S. officials told Axios.
The meeting, which was not made public, comes prior to another possible meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, that could take place at the end of June.
Other items that were discussed were a possible arrangement between Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia and the United States’ relationship, which has soured since President Biden took office as he sought to distance himself from Saudi Arabia, citing human rights concerns, especially after the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
The two senior officials, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein, were said to have arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, although the White House and the Saudi embassy have so far declined to comment. The State Department told Axios that it had “no official travel to announce at this time.”
The United States has been asking Saudi Arabia for additional oil production for months now to alleviate high retail gasoline prices at home. So far, Saudi Arabia and the remaining OPEC+ members have stuck to their agreements, unwilling or unable to produce more.
The average cost for a gallon of regular grade gasoline in the United States was $4.599 on Wednesday–a record. A Rasmussen Reports poll from earlier in May showed that 82% of Americans worry about gas prices and rising energy costs—more than they are about climate change, with 60% favoring a law that would dramatically increase oil and gas drilling in the U.S.