Biden claims he pressed Saudi leader on journalist’s murder
US President Joe Biden has said he confronted Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, insisting the royal was personally responsible for the killing.
Speaking to reporters following a sit-down with bin Salman on Friday, Biden said he raised the issue “at the top of the meeting” and made his stance “crystal clear.”
“I said very straightforwardly: For an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights, is this consistent with – inconsistent with who we are and who I am? I’ll always stand up for our values,” he said.
While, according to Biden, the prince denied any direct part in Khashoggi’s murder – which took place in a Saudi diplomatic building in Turkey in October 2018 – the president went on to say he “indicated that [bin Salman] probably was” involved after all.
Asked about recent comments from Khashoggi’s widow, who said “the blood of MBS’s next victim is on [Biden’s] hands,” he simply replied: “I’m sorry she feels that way,” going on to say he does not regret dubbing the prince a “pariah” during the 2020 presidential race.
“Do I regret it? I don’t regret anything that I said. What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous,” he added.
The president has come under fire for continuing the close US-Saudi relationship despite repeated claims of rights abuses within the Gulf monarchy, chief among them Khashoggi’s assassination, which the CIA concluded was ordered by Mohammed bin Salman himself.
“Hey POTUS, is this the accountability you promised for my murder?” she wrote, apparently speaking from the perspective of her late spouse, while also sharing a photo of the fist-bump.
However, Biden insisted the purpose of his trip to Saudi Arabia was not to see with the prince, but rather “to meet with the [Gulf Cooperation Council] and nine nations to deal with the security… and the needs of the free world.”
He made a similar argument in a recent Washington Post op-ed ahead of his travels, where he outlined a variety of reasons to visit the kingdom, including regional security, rising gas prices, Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine and competition with China.