US President Joe Biden claimed on Friday that he reminded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he considered him accountable for the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi during negotiations to re-establish ties with the important Arab ally.
Biden said after meeting with Saudi Arabia’s senior officials that the crown prince, known as MbS, rejected any participation and that those guilty had been held accountable.
After landing in Saudi Arabia, Biden shared a fist bump with MbS and shook hands with King Salman.
“With respect to the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think about it now,” Biden told reporters.
“I was straight forward and direct in discussing it. I made my point quite clear. I stated unequivocally that an American president remaining silent on a human rights issue is incongruous with who we are and who I am.”
According to US intelligence, the crown prince personally authorized the murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic, by Saudi agents. What happened to Khashoggi, according to Biden, was “outrageous.”
“He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it,” Biden said of the crown prince’s response during their meeting. “I indicated that I believed he was.”
They also talked energy, according to the president, and he expects to see “more moves” on energy from Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, in the coming weeks.
As a presidential candidate, Biden claimed the murder should make the monarchy a “pariah” on the international scene. On Friday, he stated that he did not regret making the remark.
Biden and his advisers made the decision not to isolate the Gulf oil behemoth, which has been building connections with Russia and China.
Domestically, the president’s relationship with the crown prince sparked criticism, beginning with the fist bump.
Officials claimed at the start of Biden’s Middle East trip that he would avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, as a precaution against COVID-19. However, during the Israel leg of the journey, the president ended up shaking hands.