This meeting was the subject of internal discussion at the Department and follows a series of meetings Prince Khaled held at the Pentagon and White House yesterday with Joe Biden administration officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The meeting was not on Blinken’s public schedule, and the White House did not announce Prince Khaled’s visit to Washington in advance. He will also meet with other State Department officials this afternoon (Eastern time).
Prince Khaled is the highest-ranking Saudi official to visit Washington since the release of the US intelligence report that found Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for approving the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Sullivan “stressed the importance of progress in advancing human rights in the kingdom” during their meeting yesterday, according to a statement issued by the White House. But it remains unclear whether the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was specifically addressed at the meeting.
There has been some pressure on the administration to urge the Saudis to bring to justice Saud al-Qahtani, a close adviser to the crown prince, who was named in the report earlier this year by the Director of National Intelligence. The State Department and the National Security Council did not provide any details when asked whether Khashoggi and Saud al-Qahtani had been — or would be — in the meetings.
The Saudis had a wide range of high-level meetings with Biden officials this week, as the Biden administration planned to address a wide range of issues, such as the ongoing war in Yemen and possible normalization of relations with Israel, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
The visit posed some challenges. Internally, there are some State Department officials who are frustrated that Prince Khaled has had so many meetings. Last night, the Saudis canceled a dinner with Biden administration officials at the Saudi ambassador’s residence in the capital just hours before, according to a source familiar with the planned dinner.
The source said the Saudis told US officials that they should make calls to Riyadh before meetings at the State Department today. The Saudi embassy did not respond to CNN’s question about the canceled dinner or plans to meet with Blinken today.