NBC News received Friday's confirmation from several officials that President Joe Biden's scheduled visits to Saudi Arabian and Israeli later in the month were postponed to July.
Sources claim that the White House plans to take a larger trip to the Middle East next month.
A senior administration official said to NBC News that they are currently planning a trip to Israel or Saudi Arabia for a GCC+3 Summit. We are currently working to confirm dates. We will announce when we have something to share.
Two U.S. officials and a foreign diplomat said that the Saudi visit will not take place in June. Additionally, two U.S. officials stated that the trip to Israel is being delayed. Biden had previously planned to add both visits to his trip to Germany and Spain later this month.
It wasn't immediately obvious why the delay occurred. Two officials and a foreign diplomat said that they were informed Friday of the delayed travel plans. Officials from the United States stated that the dates were still in flux and could be changed again.
The White House declined comment to the itinerary. Late Friday, inquiries to the Washington Embassy from Israeli and Saudi diplomats were not immediately returned.
Biden's plans for Saudi Arabia were quickly questioned due to the country's human rights record, as well as the president's past comments about the oil-rich nation. Biden, on the campaign trail, promised to treat Jamal Khashoggi as a "pariah", following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate Istanbul. In 2018, the CIA determined that Khashoggi was killed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. The crown prince denied any involvement in Khashoggi's death.
This week, relatives of 9/11 terrorist victims wrote to Biden to demand that he raise "accountability" issues about alleged ties between the hijackers of 9/11 and Saudi officials.
Saudi Arabia, an economic and military ally of the United States, is traditionally one of the first foreign stops that a president makes in the Middle East. Given its significant role in many of the most important foreign policy issues facing the Biden administration, such as the Iran nuclear agreement and Israel-Palestinian tensions, it has been difficult for the Biden administration to not cooperate with Saudi Arabia.
Biden is also looking at ways to drive down the cost of oil and gasoline as his administration is under constant pressure to do more to reduce fuel prices heading into the midterm election.
NBC News reported Thursday that Biden was likely to visit Saudi Arabian and Israeli this month, citing five sources who are familiar with the matter.
These travel plans were never confirmed by the White House. Sources told NBC News, however, that the Biden administration had made it clear to other countries that the visits would be taking place in June and that the White House was preparing for them.
A reporter asked Biden Friday morning about reports that he was going to Saudi Arabia. He said that a stop was possible, but that he wasn't sure if he was going.