Saudi officials said on Saturday they wanted to override the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a day after US President Joe Biden raised it during talks with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Tensions between the pair had been high before their first meeting, particularly after the Biden administration released an intelligence community assessment last year that Prince Mohammed “approved” of the operation that led to the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
In remarks late Friday, Biden called Khashoggi’s death “outrageous” and said he had warned Prince Mohammed against further attacks on dissidents, without specifying what action he might take.
Al-Arabiya channel quoted a Saudi official as saying that the couple “addressed the issue of Jamal Khashoggi quickly” and that Prince Mohammed “confirmed that what happened is regrettable and that we have taken all legal measures to prevent a recurrence.
Prince Mohammed also pointed out that “such an incident happens anywhere in the world”, pointing to “a number of mistakes” made by Washington, such as the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Al-Arabiya reported.
In an interview with CNN, Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, questioned the determination of the intelligence community that Prince Mohammed ordered the 2018 operation, which Prince Mohammed said. denied.
“We know what the intelligence community’s assessment was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Jubeir replied in an exchange with Wolf Blitzer that was widely shared on Saudi social media.
Accusations that the Iraqi dictator possessed such weapons sparked the 2003 Iraq War. None have been found.
Jubeir also clarified that the kingdom believes the Khashoggi case has been sufficiently dealt with, even though Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.
In 2020, a Saudi court jailed eight people between the ages of seven and 20 for the murder. Their names were never released and Khashoggi’s fiancée called the decision a “farce”.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has investigated this crime. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has held those responsible accountable, and they are paying the price for the crime they committed as we speak,” Jubeir said.
“We investigated, we punished and we put procedures in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s what countries do in situations like this.”
Despite continued discord over the Khashoggi affair, the meeting between Prince Mohammed and Biden “went well with a frank exchange of opinions,” Saudi analyst Ali Shihabi told AFP.
Prince Mohammed “responded to Biden, pointing out the American double standard of making a huge noise about Khashoggi (a Saudi) while doing his best to downplay the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh even though she is a US citizen,” Shihabi said, referring to the Palestinian-American journalist shot dead in May while covering an Israeli army raid in the West Bank.
“But beyond that frank exchange, the meeting was very cordial and important in putting behind them the bad blood created by Biden’s statement,” he said.