Joe Biden confronts Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi murder, expects action on energy

JEDDAH: President of the United States Joe Biden said on Friday he told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he had blamed the killing. Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggishortly after exchanging a bump with the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
On a trip to re-establish relations with a country he calls pariah after Khashoggi’s murder in 2018, Biden said the crown prince, known as MbS, denied involvement in the murder and said he had asked those responsible for accountability.
“Regarding the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the beginning of the meeting, stating clearly what I thought about it at the time and what I think about it now,” Biden told reporters.
“I am frank and forthright when I discuss this issue. I have made my position clear. I say very frankly that it is inappropriate for an American president to be silent on a human rights issue. who I am and who I am.”
US intelligence says the crown prince approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, a Saudi insider critic who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the consulate. of the kingdom in Istanbul. Biden said what happened to Khashoggi was outrageous.
“He basically said he wasn’t personally responsible for it,” Biden said of the crown prince’s reaction to their meeting. “I pointed out that I thought it was him.”
The president said they also discussed energy and that he expected to see action from Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, on energy in the coming weeks.
As a presidential candidate, Biden has said the kingdom should be seen as a “pariah” on the world stage because of Khashoggi’s murder. He said on Friday that he doesn’t regret the comment.
With body language closely watched, at the start of Biden Middle East Trip officials have said he will avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, as a precaution against COVID-19. But the president finally shook hands on the leg of his trip to Israel.
Biden’s interactions with the crown prince drew immediate criticism at home – including from The Washington Post and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Khashoggi lived in self-imposed exile in Virginia. The late journalist’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, posted a picture of him holding hands on Twitter and said that Khashoggi would write: “Is this the responsibility you promised for my murder? Blood of the dead? MBS’s next victim is on your hands.”
Biden told reporters in Jeddah that he was sorry she felt that way.
American reporters shouted questions about Khashoggi to the crown prince at the start of the meeting. “Will you apologize to his family?” someone called out. MbS, with Saudi Arabia’s energy minister sitting next to him, didn’t answer and appeared to smile slightly as reporters were ushered out of the room.
Oil pressure
Energy and security interests led Biden and his aides to decide not to isolate the Gulf oil giant, which has been strengthening ties with Russia and China, despite the president’s displeasure. about the murder. Biden wants to “reset” Washington’s relations with Saudi Arabia and not break them, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speak.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, who attended the Saudi welcome party, reiterated in an article for Politico the kingdom’s “disgust” over the killing. person, describing it as an act of horrendous atrocities and saying it cannot define US-Saudi relations.
Jeddah holds a larger meeting of Arab leaders on Saturday.
Mr. Sullivan told reporters en route to Jeddah, Biden will discuss energy security with leaders of Gulf oil producers and hopes to see OPEC+ take more action to boost output , but there won’t be any bilateral announcements from the talks.
Biden said he expects action soon.
“We had a good discussion about ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies to support global economic growth,” Biden said. “I’m doing all I can to increase the supply to the United States of America, which I expect will happen. The Saudis share that urgency and build on their discussions. me today, I hope we take further strides in the coming weeks.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said no deal had been made on oil and that Saudi Arabia and OPEC countries would make decisions based on the market, not “hysteria” ” or “politics”.
The OPEC+ group that includes Russia will meet next on August 3.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have reiterated their commitment to the stability of the global energy market, a joint statement by Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, SPA, said.
The United States is eager to see Saudi Arabia and its OPEC partners pump in more oil to help bring down high gasoline prices and appease America’s highest inflation in four decades.
Biden, who flew to Jeddah after visiting Israel, also touted some of the Saudi moves seen by many as signs of a gradual thaw between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel more access to its territory, which Biden says he hopes will lead to a broader normalization of relations.
He also announced a US-brokered deal between Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia under which a small US-led international peacekeeping team would leave the strategic Red Sea island of Tiran.
Cairo ceded control to Riyadh in 2017. Israel’s approval is required for any changes to the security arrangements there, and lengthy and complex negotiations have been required to signed the agreement because of the lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Biden is the first US president to fly directly from Israel to Jeddah. Ahead of the visit, Saudi Arabia said it would open its airspace to all aircraft carriers, paving the way for more flights to and from Israel, what Biden described as a historic and important step to build a more stable and integrated Middle East.
The United States and Saudi Arabia agreed on the importance of preventing Iran from “buying nuclear weapons” during a visit to Biden, a joint statement released by Saudi Arabia’s state news agency (SPA) said.
The statement said Mr Biden underscored his country’s strong and enduring commitment to supporting the security and defense of the oil-rich kingdom.
The two countries also emphasized the need to prevent Iran from interfering in the internal affairs of countries, supporting terrorism through affiliated armed groups, and destabilizing the security and stability of the region.

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