Biden calls Saudi King before US report on Khashoggi murder
United States President Joe Biden held a telephonic conversation with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Thursday, before an intelligence report on the murder of a Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is to be released. Biden reportedly raised human rights issue and pushed for an end to the civil war in Yemen, taking a tougher stance toward the Kingdom than his predecessor Donald Trump.
What did Biden say on the call?
According to a White House statement, Biden "affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law" during the call. He did not mention Khashoggi by name but praised the recent release of Saudi-American activists and Loujain al-Hathloul from custody. Al-Hathloul was released this month after her May 2018 arrest. She was charged under broad counter-terrorism laws.
'Biden, King Salman would work toward stronger bilateral ties'
The statement added, "Together they discussed regional security, including the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the US to end the war in Yemen, and the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups." Biden told King Salman he would "work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible."
What is the report on Khashoggi murder?
The call between the two leaders came as a US intelligence report on the Khashoggi murder is expected to be declassified as soon as Friday. It reportedly implicates Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in approving the killing of Khashoggi. Notably, the former Trump administration had rejected a legal requirement to release the report in declassified form.
What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?
Khashoggi, 59, was murdered in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was a US-based Saudi national who had been an outspoken critic of the Saudi Crown Prince. According to Saudi prosecutors, Khashoggi was forcibly restrained after a struggle. He was then injected with a drug and an overdose led to his death. His body was then dismembered, prosecutors said.
What does the Kingdom say to allegations of killing Khashoggi?
The Crown Prince has denied any involvement in Khashoggi's murder. Instead, Saudi authorities blamed his death on a "rogue operation" by a team of agents sent to return him to the Kingdom. Last September, a Saudi court sentenced five individuals to 20 years in prison.