During his campaign for the presidency of the United States, Joe Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and announced that he would make changes in the relationship between the two countries. After winning the dispute with Donald Trump, he preached avoiding direct relations with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (known as MBS). of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, murdered in October 2018 inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
This week, the two countries reported that Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia in July and meet with MBS. The change in stance has embarrassed allies and generated accusations of treason against Biden.
The trip will also include a visit to Israel, Biden’s first as head of state, and to the West Bank, according to with information released by the US government, in a statement.
Khashoggi lived in the United States and was a columnist for The Washington Post. After entering the diplomatic mission building – where he was looking for documents to be able to marry Hatice Cengiz -, he never left.
In October of the same year, the Attorney General of Turkey, Irfan Fidan concluded that, after entering the consulate, the journalist was murdered by asphyxiation and had his body dismembered. The government of Saudi Arabia admitted that state agents killed Khashoggi, but never provided information about the investigation and trial.
US intelligence bodies concluded that MBS ordered the journalist’s murder, but the prince
After Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was confirmed, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told CNN that while the president “has the task difficult to deal with gasoline prices and trying to find ways to find new sources and supplies to reduce inflation in the energy sector”, the lawmaker has “mixed feelings” about the visit. He called the Saudi record on human rights “outrageous”.
Saudi human rights activist Hala al-Dosari told the Associated Press that Biden’s meeting with MBS will be “a betrayal ”. He also criticized the decision to visit Israel at a time when the death of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed in May in the West Bank, is still being investigated. Palestinians claim she was shot by Israeli forces.
Al-Dosari accused the Biden government of “prioritizing immediate interests over the long-term goals of supporting democratic transitions” in Arab countries and “the immediate interests of securing more oil and support for Israel.”
At a press conference, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that oil exports are just one of the topics to be discussed during Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July.
“Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner of the United States for almost 80 years. And there is no doubt that important interests are intertwined with Saudi Arabia, especially the recent extension of the truce in Yemen, which saved countless lives,” said Jean-Pierre.
The secretary deflected, however, when asked if Biden should speak directly about Khashoggi’s death at the meeting with MBS.
“As you know, human rights are always part of the conversation in our engagements abroad. So it will always be that way, regardless of who he is with. is meeting. What I mean is that we are not ignoring any conduct that took place before the President took office. We have issued an extensive report on Khashoggi and we have issued the so-called Khashoggi Ban,” he said, citing a measure that allows the US State Department to deny visas to persons who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are directly involved in serious extraterritorial counter-dissident activities.
Next, however, Jean-Pierre added: “It is also important to emphasize that while we collaborate and re-collaborate (sic) relationships, we are not looking to break relationships either.”