LSaudi Arabia said dryly on Saturday that the killing of critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “tragedy” that there was no need to dwell on, after US President Joe Biden mentioned it during his visit to the Gulf monarchy.
A critic of power after being close to it, Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. US intelligence services have pointed to the responsibility of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, poisoning relations between Riyadh and Washington.
Nicknamed MBS, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, receiving the US president on Friday, “explained (to Mr. Biden) that it was a tragedy for Saudi Arabia,” according to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir.
The crown prince assured that “those responsible had been investigated, had faced justice and were now paying for the crime,” Jubeir added in an interview with CNN.
Asked about a US intelligence report that designates MBS as sponsor of the operation, the Saudi minister launched: “We know very well what the intelligence had concluded about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction”, which never existed.
The Saudi official also highlighted the “mistakes” of the United States, citing the case of Abu Ghraib, this Iraqi prison where US soldiers practiced torture and humiliating treatment.
Quoted by the Saudi channel Al-Arabiya, an anonymous Saudi official also claimed that the Khashoggi issue had been raised “rapidly” during the meeting with Joe Biden, stressing that “such an incident (could) happen anywhere in the world.”
In 2020, a Saudi court sentenced eight men to between seven and twenty years in prison for the murder of the journalist. Ali Shihabi, an expert close to the Saudi government, claimed that the crown prince had responded to Biden “by pointing out the doublespeak of the Americans, making a lot of noise about Khashoggi while trying to minimize the murder of Shireen Abu. Akleh”, American-Palestinian journalist killed in May by Israeli fire according to the UN.
“In addition to this frank exchange, the meeting was very cordial,” he told AFP.
Biden is facing an avalanche of criticism for his meeting with MBS, after promising during his campaign to put human rights at the center of his diplomacy.