The de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates declined to arrange calls with President Joe Biden in recent weeks as the U.S. worked to contain a spike in oil prices driven by Russia’s war on Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Citing U.S. and Middle Eastern officials, the Journal reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan both declined requests to speak to Biden amid dissatisfaction in both countries over U.S. policy in the region.
“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,” a U.S. official told the Journal, referring to the planned discussion between the Saudi crown prince and Biden. “It was part of turning on the spigot” of Saudi oil.
Biden did, however, speak with the crown prince’s father, King Salman, on Feb. 9, the Journal reported.
Officials said relations had grown strained between the U.S. and the two Persian Gulf nations over the Biden administration’s lack of support for the war in Yemen and its revived negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal.
Saudi officials reportedly also seek legal immunity for the Saudi crown prince, who faces multiple lawsuits in the U.S., including over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The White House has looked to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela for talks about increasing oil production to offset the effect of the Ukraine crisis on energy markets. Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on Russian oil imports, a major escalation of sanctions that will cause further price hikes for American consumers.
Saudi and Emirati officials had earlier this month rejected calls to pump more oil, saying they would stick to a production agreement approved by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), an alliance that includes Russia.
The Saudi crown prince and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed both participated in calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.