US President Biden has said in a telephone conversation with Saudi King Salman that he wants to work on ties between the countries that are “as strong and transparent as possible”. The White House reports that.
The phone call between the two leaders was pending a yet to be made public US report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was murdered in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
The still secret report of the American intelligence agency CIA describes the involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He would have ordered the murder. The report is expected at any time, write American media.
Whether President Biden and King Salman discussed the report is not clear. Neither the White House nor Saudi media report it. Biden said yesterday that he read the report.
The report, and the painful conclusion for the Saudi royal family, is seen as a test of fire for the future relationship between the two allies. The two countries have been working together for decades against Iran’s influence in the Middle East. “The two leaders reaffirmed the historic importance of the relationship between the countries,” the White House writes.
Biden said he wants to maintain strong ties with one of the US’s most important Arab allies. “Our focus is on rethinking the relationship,” said a spokesperson. “Of course there are issues that we are concerned about and we are keeping the different options on accountability open,” she pointed out the importance of human rights in Saudi Arabia.
The American president said afterwards that the conversation had gone “well”. Saudi Arabia also looked back positively on the phone call. Media from that country report that the king congratulated Biden on his presidency. Salman also underlined the importance of a strong relationship.
Khashoggi’s body never found
Khashoggi lived in the US and worked as a columnist for the Washington Post, among other things. His critical columns included the Saudi crown prince. He was lured to the consulate in Istanbul in 2018 and murdered there. His cut-up body has never been found.
Five suspects were sentenced to death in 2019. That sentence was later commuted to 20 years in prison after the journalist’s relatives forgave the five. Three others were sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Mohammed bin Salman denied in 2019 that he was behind the murder. He did take responsibility for the murder, because it was committed by people who work for the Saudi government.
As crown prince, ‘MBS’ has a great influence on the policies of his father, the king. In addition, he could succeed 85-year-old Salman at any time. That means the matter is a delicate matter for the White House.