President Joe Biden has talked by phone with Saudi’s King Salman as he puts the relations with America’s old ally on a new footing. The White House said that Biden affirmed the importance it places on the rule of law and universal human rights.
The call between the two leaders came after Biden went through a forthcoming US report on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It is due to be released shortly and expected to implicate the king’s son and Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Under former US President Trump, the White House pursued closer ties with Riyadh.
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Trump rejected the legal requirement to make the report public, focusing instead on more cooperation and closer ties with Kingdom. However, the newly-elected President is expected to take a much tougher stance with Riyadh on certain issues. In 2018, when the Saudi journalist was murdered inside the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, his body was dismembered. However, the crown prince and aides have categorically denied any involvement in the incident.
Riyadh blamed a set of what it called “rogue agents” sent to return him to Saudi Arabia. And last year, in September, a local court tried and charged five people to twenty years in jail after sentencing them to death. Although there was no mention of the incident in the statement, it stated that Biden noted the release of several activists, including the prominent women rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul positively, and affirmed Washington’s commitment to universal human rights.
Earlier this month, al-Hathloul was released after three years in prison. However, the Saudi officials imposed a travel ban and barred her from speaking to media outlets. The statement further added that the two leaders spoke about the historic relations between the two nations and the threat posed by the Tehran-backed groups. It said that the President told the king that his administration would work on making the bilateral relations as strong and as transparent.
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