Saudi prince responds to Biden

(CNN) — Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has responded to Joe Biden after the US president confronted him about the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a meeting between the two leaders on Friday, according to a source familiar with the matter.

At the meeting, Bin Salman, also known as MBS, denied responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Biden said that he indicated that he did not agree with MBS, based on US intelligence assessments, according to the source.

In response to Biden mentioning Khashoggi, MBS cited the sexual and physical abuse of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison by US military personnel and the May murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. of the occupied Jordan as incidents that portrayed the United States poorly, the source said.

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir echoed the sentiment in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer shortly after the end of the meeting, of which Jubeir was a part.

“We investigate, we punish and we make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Jubeir said when asked about Khashoggi’s murder. “This is what countries do. This is what the United States did when the Abu Ghraib mistake was made.”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gives a fist bump to US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Al Salman Palace, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 15, 2022.

Abu Ghraib prison was a US Army detention facility for captured Iraqis from the start of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 until the prison’s closure in 2006. In 2004, a trove of footage was leaked prison graphics showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel. Eleven US soldiers were convicted of crimes related to the scandal.

Renowned Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh was shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the occupied city of Jenin, on the West Bank of Jordan.

Abu Akleh was a household name in the Arab world, having spent decades reporting on the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Footage obtained by CNN — corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, a forensic audio analyst and an explosive weapons expert — suggested that Abu Akleh, who was wearing a helmet and blue protective vest marked “Press” at the time of the her assassination, she was shot dead in an attack led by Israeli forces.

On the West Bank of the Jordan on Friday, Biden said the United States insists on a “full and transparent accounting” of the journalist’s murder.

Biden called Abu Akleh’s death a “huge loss” while standing next to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

“I hope his legacy…inspires more young people to continue his work of reporting the truth and telling stories that are too often overlooked. The United States will continue to insist on a full and transparent account of his death and will continue to defend press freedom around the world,” Biden said.

Palestinian officials and members of Abu Akleh’s family have criticized the US investigation and are urging the US to do more to hold Israel accountable for the assassination.

An image of assassinated Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is placed on a chair at a press conference by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Joe Biden in Bethlehem, West Bank of Jordan, on July 15, 2022.

Khashoggi as a priority during the Biden meeting with Mohammed bin Salman

In a quickly staged speech after Biden’s bilateral talks with Mohammed bin Salman, the president said he raised Khashoggi’s killing at the start of the meeting.

“Regarding the Khashoggi murder, I brought it up at the beginning of the meeting, making it clear what I thought at the time and what I think now,” Biden told reporters. “I was simple and direct in discussing it. I made my point of view very clear.”

But the human rights discussion appears to have been overshadowed by broader talks on energy security, regional stability, trade and investment, according to several officials. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the war in Yemen are also believed to have been key parts of the discussions.

“Those responsible (for Khashoggi’s murder) have been investigated and faced the law and are paying the price for their crime,” Jubeir said on CNN of the discussion. “The conversation moved forward in terms of the official discussion.”

Senior administration officials on Saturday defended Biden’s decision to meet face-to-face with Mohammed bin Salman, despite fierce pushback and criticism, saying it would have been a “step back if the president didn’t come to the region and it would be a step back if he didn’t come to the region.” did not and was not willing to sit down and raise human rights concerns with foreign leaders around the world.”

“It’s hard to say that values ​​are going to be a key part of their foreign policy and human rights are important to us as a nation and certainly as an administration and then not going abroad and not talking to (leaders) frankly and directly about that worries us,” said a senior administration official.

Biden came to Jeddah seeking solutions to one of his main political problems at home, skyrocketing gasoline prices, as diplomacy with Saudi Arabia in the Middle East was seen as one of the few routes he could take to lower prices. They are putting pressure. in millions of Americans.

But White House officials say the president will not return to Washington on Saturday with explicit increases in oil production. The expectation is that there will be increases in the coming months, within the context of higher production levels in the OPEC+ cartel presented at its August meeting.

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