Since his arrival at the White House, President Biden has refused to meet and even speak with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. This was in an attempt to punish him for his de facto rule. Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, was brutally murderedSaudi 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 trip to Saudi Arabia for a regional summit focused on oil and Iran.
The two leaders briefly discussed the case, according to U.S. and Saudi officials, but effectively agreed to disagree on Prince Mohammed’s culpability before announcing a slew of initiatives aimed at emphasizing the close partnership between their countries.
This was the end of the last high-level effort by Prince Mohammed to be held accountable for the murder.
The two leaders’ conversation happened behind closed doors, and slightly different accounts emerged.
Mr. Biden told reporters that he had confronted Prince Mohammed privately about what he called an “outrageous” killing at the start of their meeting, even telling the prince that Mr. Biden held him responsible for it.
President Biden’s Visit to the Middle East
The U.S. president is on a four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, after branding the latter country a “pariah” state following the brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist.
“I made my view crystal clear,” Mr. Biden said.
Separately Adel al-Jubeir – the Saudi minister for foreign affairs – described to reporters an informal exchange on human rights, in which the killing was only briefly mentioned.
Calling the killing “a terrible mistake,” Mr. al-Jubeir said that those responsible for the crime had been punished, that the United States and Saudi Arabia had moved on, and that the United States was in no position to criticize, recalling the torture of detainees in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison by American troops.
Mr. Khashoggi was one of Saudi Arabia’s highest-profile journalists and was for years considered a palace insider who could effectively explain the kingdom’s point of view.
But after Prince Mohammed came to power 2015, Mr. Khashoggi criticized the prince’s lack of tolerance for dissenting views and, fearing arrest, fled to the United States, where he wrote columns for The Washington Post that critiqued the prince’s initiatives.
In October 2018, Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée. He Never came out.
Turkish officials and a United Nations investigator later described how he was confronted by a Saudi Arabian hit squad that strangled him, then injected him with tranquilizers, thereby killing him. A forensic doctor then dismembered his body and a body double wandered around Istanbul, wearing Mr. Khashoggi’s clothes in a failed attempt to convince the world that he was still alive.
Saudi officials have denied for weeks that their country was responsible for the crime. However, the perpetrators were captured on camera and were identified. Prince Mohammed is closely connected.
Saudi officials eventually acknowledged Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, but insisted that it had been carried out by rogue agents with no such orders from Riyadh.
Prince Mohammed claimed that he did not know of the plot but the crime left a lasting impression on his attempts to be a forward-looking reformer. Saudi prosecution found eight men guiltyThe international outrage over the killing was not quelled by the incident.
The killing of Mr. Khashoggi was a primary reason that Mr. Biden vowed during his election campaign to treat the Saudis “like the pariah that they are.”
The White House authorized the release by the C.I.A. assessment saying that the prince had authorized the operation that led to Mr. Khashoggi’s death. Mister Biden refused to talk with Prince Mohammed and said that his counterpart was the King.
Friday was the last time that Mr. Biden met Prince Mohammed to discuss issues such as regional security and oil supplies.