JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman told President Joe Biden that Saudi Arabia had acted to prevent a repeat of mistakes like the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and that the United States had also made mistakes, including in Iraq, a Saudi minister said.
Biden said on Friday he asked Prince Mohammad about the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, shortly after exchanging a fist bump with him.
“The President raised the issue... And the crown prince responded that this was a painful episode for Saudi Arabia and that it was a terrible mistake,” the kingdom’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubair said.
Those who were accused were brought to trial and being punished with prison terms, he said.
Al Jubeir, talking to Reuters about Friday’s conversation between the two leaders, said the crown prince had made the case that trying to impose values by force on other countries could backfire.
“It has not worked when the US tried to impose values on Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, it backfired. It does not work when people try to impose values by force on other countries,” Al Jubair quoted the prince as telling Biden.
“Countries have different values and those values should be respected,” the Crown Prince told Biden.
The exchange highlighted the tensions that have weighed on the relationship between Washington and Riyadh, its closest Arab ally, over several issues, including Khashoggi, high oil prices and the Yemen war.
The Crown Prince told Biden what happened with Khashoggi was ‘regrettable,’ and thatSaudi Arabia has undertaken all the legal procedures in the case, from investigations, to trials, to sentencing, and the implementation of the sentences.
Biden, who landed in Saudi Arabia on Friday in his first Middle East trip as president, held a summit on Saturday with six Gulf states and Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
“His Royal Highness mentioned to the President that mistakes like this happen in other countries and we saw a mistake like this being committed by the United States in Abu Ghraib (prison in Iraq),” Al Jubair said.
Accusation of political prisoners rejected
Crown Prince Mohammad also raised the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh during an Israeli raid in the West Bank.
Abu Aqleh, who worked for the Al Jazeera network, was shot in the head on May 11 while reporting on an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Palestinians believe she was killed deliberately by Israeli troops. Israel denies its soldiers shot her on purpose, and say she may have been killed either by errant army fire or a shot fired by a Palestinian gunman.
Al Jubair rejected the accusation that Saudi Arabia has hundreds of political prisoners.
“That’s absolutely not correct. We have prisoners in Saudi Arabia who have committed crimes and who were put to trial by our courts and were found guilty,” he said.
“The notion that they would be described as political prisoners is ridiculous,” he added.