President Joe Biden is maintaining that he absolutely confronted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman (MbS) over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But that is not what leaders from Saudi Arabia who were in the room with both Biden and MbS are reporting about the meeting between the two national leaders.
Saudi Arabia is pushing back on the claim from the White House administration.
Looking at a little history, it’s important to remember that President Biden while campaigning for the office of president vowed to treat Saudi Arabia like a “pariah” state. But after this recent visit with the crown prince, he is taking heat for casual fist bumping MbS while entering his palace.
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At a press conference following his troubled trip to the Middle East, Biden said that he “raised” the issue of Khashoggi’s murder. He said that he did it “at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think of it now.”
The president also said, “And it was exactly — I was straightforward and direct in discussing it. I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly: For an American President to be silent on an issue of human rights, is this consistent with — inconsistent with who we are and who I am? I’ll always stand up for our values.”
The president, at a later time, claimed that he told the crown prince that the “thought” that he was responsible for the horrendous murder of Khashoggi. He was a Saudi insider-turned-critic who had been living in self-imposed exile in Virginia.
Intelligence agencies in the United States have reported that they believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman actually ordered the murder in 2018.
But MbS has denied any responsibility for the killing and he has maintained that all parties that were involved in the murder have been tried and brought to justice.
Regarding any conversation on this issue between Biden and MbS, the Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, said he was in the meeting between the two world leaders. He told the press from the United States that he “didn’t hear” Biden discuss the issue of Khashoggi’s murder.
Another Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, told CNN, “These are issues, mistakes that happen in any country, including the United States.”
The crown prince lashed out at the United States saying that America has made its own mistakes and has not always taken the necessary action to hold people responsible for the mistakes they have made. He said the same is true in his kingdom, but they have taken action recently so that they would not repeat mistakes they have made in the past.
When President Biden was asked about what has been said by the Saudi officials, he responded by saying that they were lying.
What was said or what was not said at this bilateral summit meeting about the 2018 murder has become a significant point of contention for the two countries.
When Biden was asked by the press about the meeting with the crown prince and whether or not he regretted the infamous fist bump at the beginning of their meeting, he lashed out saying, “Why don’t you guys talk about something that matters? I’m happy to answer a question that matters.”
He was also asked by the same reporter whether or not he can be sure a murder like Khashoggi’s wouldn’t happen again, Biden responded: “God love you. What a silly question. How can I possibly be sure of any of that?”