Since entering the White House, President Biden has refused to meet and even speak with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, seeking to punish him with ostracism from Saudi Arabia. The horrific murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi By Saudi agents in 2018.
But that objection fell by the wayside on Friday when Mr. Biden and Prince Mohammed met face to face during Mr. Biden’s first visit to Saudi Arabia for a regional summit focused on oil and Iran.
The two leaders briefly discussed the issue, according to US and Saudi officials, but effectively agreed not to agree on Prince Mohammed’s guilt before announcing a slew of initiatives aimed at underscoring the close partnership between their countries.
Thus ended the latest high-profile attempt to hold Prince Mohammed accountable for the murder.
The two leaders’ conversation took place behind closed doors, and slightly different accounts emerged.
Mr Biden told reporters that he confronted Prince Mohammed privately about what he called the “outrageous” killing at the start of their meeting, even telling the prince that Biden held him responsible.
“You made my point very clearly,” Mr. Biden said.
Separately, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, described to reporters a less controversial exchange on human rights in which the killing was mentioned briefly.
Al-Jubeir described the killing as a “fatal mistake,” and said that those responsible for the crime had been punished, that the United States and Saudi Arabia had acted, and that the United States was not in a position to criticize, recalling the torture of detainees in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison by American forces.
Mr. Khashoggi was one of Saudi Arabia’s leading journalists and for years was considered a palace insider who could effectively explain the kingdom’s view.
But after Prince Mohammed came to power in 2015, Mr. Khashoggi criticized the prince’s lack of tolerance for dissenting views and fled to the United States for fear of arrest, writing columns in the Washington Post criticizing the prince’s initiatives.
In October 2018, Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain the documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée. he is didn’t come out.
Later, Turkish officials and a UN investigator detailed how a hit squad sent from Saudi Arabia confronted him who strangled him and injected him with a sedative, killing him. Then a forensic doctor dismembered his body and a double-body wandered around Istanbul dressed as Mr. Khashoggi in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the world that he was still alive.
For weeks, Saudi officials denied that the kingdom was behind his crime, but the perpetrators were caught on camera and identified, some of whom Closely related to Prince Muhammad.
Saudi officials eventually acknowledged Khashoggi’s killing, but insisted that the crime was carried out by rogue agents without orders from Riyadh.
Although Prince Mohammed said he had no prior knowledge of the plot, the murder left a stain on his efforts to present himself as a forward-looking reformer. Saudi trial that Eight men found guilty Regarding the killing, it did little to quell international outrage.
The murder of Mr. Khashoggi was a major reason Mr. Biden vowed during his election campaign to treat Saudis “like untouchables”.
At the White House, he authorized the release of the CIA assessment saying the prince authorized the operation that led to Mr. Khashoggi’s death. Mr Biden also refused to speak with Prince Mohammed, saying his counterpart is the king.
Until Friday, that is, when Biden sat down with Prince Mohammed to discuss oil supplies, regional security and other issues.
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