Joe Biden raises murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with crown prince in Saudi Arabia

Joe Biden said he made it clear to Mohammed Bin Salam that there would be a strong response from the US if 'anything occurs like that again', but the image of the fist bump suggests tensions could be thawing, reports ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

US President Joe Biden says he raised the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man he once pledged to shun for human rights violations.

On a trip to reset relations with a country he had called a pariah after the murder of the Washington Post journalist in 2018, Mr Biden said he brought up the killing "at the top of the meeting".

But he was criticised for fist-bumping the crown prince prior to the talks, as it indicated an apparent warming of relations between the two countries.

The US president greeted the country's de-facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a fist bump

"With respect to the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think about it now," Mr Biden told reporters.

"I was straight forward 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 inconsistent with who we are and who I am."

During their talks in Jeddah, the US president said the crown prince claimed he was “not personally responsible” for the death of Khashoggi. “I indicated I thought he was,” the president said he replied.

Mr Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago. Credit: AP

The crown prince, according to US intelligence, approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. The prince has denied the allegations.

The president said they also discussed energy, adding that he expected to see action from Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, on energy over the coming weeks.

Khashoggi was a 59-year-old journalist who was a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s authoritarian consolidation of power.

Despite previous comments, the Biden administration has attempted to reset relations with Saudi Arabia, in part to stabilise global oil markets, but has been criticised as validating the Saudi government in doing so.

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Fred Ryan, the Washington Post's publisher, described Mr Biden's fist bump with the prince as "shameful".

“It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking,” Mr Ryan said, referring to the crown prince by his initials.

“If we ever needed a visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on US foreign policy in the Middle East, we got it today,” tweeted Democrat Adam Schiff.

“One fist bump is worth a thousand words.”

Mr Biden had long refused to speak to Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including unfair trials, the imposition of the death penalty, flogging punishments and discrimination against women and LGBTQ groups.

But concerns about human rights have been somewhat eclipsed by other challenges, including Iran’s nuclear ambitions and rising gas prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Saudi Arabia wants to strengthen its security relationship with the United States and secure investments to transform its economy into one less reliant on pumping oil.