President Joe Biden hints the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia was not being truthful in his account of the US leader’s meeting with the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
Biden was referring to comments made by Adel al-Jubeir, who told Fox News he did not “hear” the US president tell MBS that he directly blamed him for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during their discussion in Jeddah on Friday.v
“I didn’t hear that particular phrase,” al-Jubeir told Fox News correspondent Alex Hogan in an interview on Saturday.
“The president mentioned that the US is committed to human rights because since the founding fathers wrote the constitution and he also made the point that American presidents – this is part of the agenda of every American president.”
Upon returning to the White House early on Sunday after his four-day Middle East trip, Biden was asked by reporters if al-Jubeir was telling the truth in recounting his exchange with MBS. Biden pointedly replied: “No.”
Biden, who visited Saudi Arabia, Israel and the occupied West Bank in his first trip to the region as US president, previously told reporters he brought up Khashoggi’s killing at the top of his initial meeting with the Saudi crown prince.He said he “indicated” to MBS that he held him “personally responsible” for the 2018 killing. He added that MBS repeatedly denied responsibility during their meeting.
Al-Jubeir, in an earlier interview with the Reuters news agency, said Biden “raised the issue … and the crown prince responded that this was a painful episode for Saudi Arabia and that it was a terrible mistake”.
The Saudi minister added that Riyadh has taken steps to prevent similar mistakes in the future, while maintaining the long-held stance that the killing was a rogue operation that took place without the knowledge of MBS or any top officials.
The US intelligence community has concluded that MBS had “approved an operation” to capture or kill Khashoggi prior to his murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.