Joe Biden has a 'good call' with Saudi King Salman ahead of release of report on Jamal Khashoggi's murder

Biden on-call had 'affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law' and that the two discussed working on 'mutual issues of concern'


                            Joe Biden has a 'good call' with Saudi King Salman ahead of release of report on Jamal Khashoggi's murder
President Joe Biden and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (Getty Images)

Joe Biden has spoken with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for the first time as the US president, just before the publication of a US intelligence report about the Jamal Khashoggi murder. The declassified intelligence assessment reportedly names the Saudi royal’s son and heir, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as complicit in the grisly murder of the journalist.

According to the White House statement, which did not mention the report, Biden on call had “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law” and that the two discussed working on “mutual issues of concern”. The Saudi embassy in Washington also said the two heads of state “confirmed the strength of bilateral ties and discussed Iran’s malign activities in the region and ways to advance peace in Yemen”.

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In the press briefing, when asked if the call was "good", Biden replied, "Yes." White House officials had earlier said the report would not be released until the call had taken place. The call indicates a subtle shift in Biden's administration relationship with the US ally Saudi Arabia and its royal family. Overall, Biden has been less of a fan than Donald Trump, cutting off US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and refusing to talk directly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was a close Trump ally. Rather by speaking to King Salman, Biden is recognizing him as his counterpart rather than the crown prince. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the briefing that there were areas where the US would “express concerns and leave open the option of accountability”. It followed remarks by national security adviser Jake Sullivan last week in which he said the administration would present additional actions when the report is released.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, walk into the State Dining Room to have lunch, at the White House, March 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

What will happen next?

Democratic lawmakers are expected to introduce a resolution on February 26 to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi's death and dismemberment as well as other human rights violations. The president has also ended US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen launched by the crown prince six years ago. Biden has also ordered an end to some weapons sales to the kingdom and will not hesitate to highlight the prince's lawless abuse of fundamental human rights. 

Dennis Ross, who has worked in multiple administrations on Middle East issues says Biden is looking to send a message to the kingdom. "Apart from responding to what was a legislative mandate, it sends a signal to Congress and I think it's also the administration's way of saying to Saudi Arabia, 'We're not going to shield you from the consequences of bad behavior, and so it's best to avoid those behaviors'," added Ross, while speaking to the press.

Many Twitter users expressed relief that the Biden administration was not sweeping the murder under the carpet like the previous administration. "We always knew that Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the grisly bone-saw killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and today the Biden Administration releases a report that confirms it. NICE to have a President who doesn't support that s**t." said one tweet. Another spun a theory, claiming that multiple international actors wanted to use Donald Trump as President to actually to get Jared Kushner into the White House." Another tweet said: "Never forget that after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Kushner became Prince bin Salman’s biggest defender and he's the same dude that can’t get a security clearance".



 

 



 

 



 

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