After Khashoggi Report, Biden Says Saudis Will Be Held Accountable for Human Rights Abuses

The U.S. president said he would be announcing 'significant changes' to the bilateral relationship between Washington and Riyadh

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Joe Biden in the White House this week.
Joe Biden in the White House this week.Credit: SAUL LOEB - AFP

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he told Saudi King Salman he would "hold them accountable for human rights abuses" and the United States would be announcing significant changes in the bilateral relationship on Friday and Monday.

"I spoke yesterday with the king ... Made it clear to him that the rules are changing and we're going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday. We are going to hold them accountable for human rights abuses," Biden said in an interview with Univision.

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to U.S. intelligence released on Friday.

"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report posted on its website.

"We base this assessment on the Crown Prince's control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Mohammed bin Salman's protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi," it added.

Saudi Arabia said it rejected completely "the negative, false and unacceptable" assessment of the U.S. intelligence report.

"The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the .... assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom's leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

In light of the report U.S. Secretary of State Blinken announced the State Department's "Khashoggi Ban," a visa restriction policy "on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities."