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Biden, Saudi king hold first phone call ahead of release of Khashoggi report

13 10 6

US President Joe Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to Saudi Arabia’s defense but stressed the importance of human rights Thursday in a long-delayed first call with Saudi King Salman, the White House said.

They discussed “the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups,” a statement said.

However, Biden also “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law” in the call, which came over a month after Biden entered office.

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The conversation was overshadowed by the expected imminent release of US findings on whether the Saudi king’s son approved the October 2, 2018, killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s authoritarian consolidation of power, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. US intelligence agencies concluded in 2018 that the prince likely ordered the killing, a finding reported by news media but never officially released. In this file photo taken on May 31, 2019 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the extraordinary Arab summit held at al-Safa Royal Palace in Mecca. (BANDAR ALDANDANI / AFP)

A White House readout of the call made no mention of the killing or the report.

The White House said Biden on Thursday discussed with King Salman the two countries’ “longstanding partnership” and welcomed the kingdom’s recent releases of an advocate for women’s rights and some of its other political detainees.

The language came in contrast to Biden’s pledge as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia “a pariah” over the killing. The White House offered no immediate explanation for his milder tone with the king.

The prince’s critics, including a rights group founded by the slain journalist, want him to make good on that pledge with sanctions or other tough actions targeting and........

© The Times of Israel

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