During his meetings with Saudi leaders, Joe Biden talked about the economy, security, and human rights. In this context, he spoke of the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashojji. Earlier, the media showed pictures of Biden’s handshake with the king and the nailing of the turtle with the prince.
Joe Biden, who arrived in Jeddah on Friday, became the first US president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia, an unprecedented event. Riyadh had previously opened its airspace “to all carriers”, ie lifted the ban on Israel from using it. The Saudi government’s decision, potentially an important step in the normalization of relations between longtime enemies of Saudi Arabia and Israel, was announced hours before the US President’s arrival in Riyadh.
White House Security Advisor Jake Sullivan he announced that the president would talk to Saudi leaders on the subject wars in Ukraine and energy security. An equally important destination of Biden’s journey is to seek rapprochement between Riyadh and Jerusalem.
Biden started his visit by nailing a “soldier” with Prince Muhammad ibn Salman and shaking hands with King Salman – describes Reuters.
Biden: a good series of matches
After 10.40 p.m. local time (9.40 p.m. in Poland), Biden went to a briefing in Jeddah. He judged that he had had a “good series of meetings” with Saudi leaders and said they had made “significant progress” together on security and economic issues. He also noted that human rights they are also an important topic. – I made it clear that this topic is extremely important for me and the United States – he said.
He said that in a conversation with the prince he had raised the murder of Jamal Khashojji. A journalist and one of the biggest critics of the Riyadh regime entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 and has been lost. After two weeks Saudi Arabia admitted that he was killed there. American intelligence found that Prince Muhammad ibn Salman himself was behind the murder. The Saudi government vehemently denied the accusations that the prince was involved in the murder of the journalist.
– I made it clear what I thought about it then and what I think about it now. I was straightforward, I said outright that the American President’s silence on human rights is incompatible with who we are and who I am. I will always defend our values - he assured.
One of the journalists asked how the prince reacted. – He said he was not personally responsible for it. I announced that I thought he was, said Biden.
The first murder sentences were issued in December 2019. Then the Riyadh Court of First Instance sentenced five defendants to the death penalty. The three others received sentences ranging from 7 to 10 years in prison. A Saudi investigation was also ongoing against Saud al-Katani, former advisor to the Saudi royal court, but no charges were brought against him.
The trial was widely criticized by human rights groups, according to which no senior Saudi official or anyone suspected of ordering the murder was found guilty. The independence of the Saudi court was undermined and UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard called the verdict “a farce.”
Relations between Washington and Riyadh have been strained since Khashojji’s assassination. Reuters assessed that the current visit of the American president is to change this state of affairs.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / BANDAR ALJALOUD HANDOUT