Mohammed bin Salman Biden MBS
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and US President Joe Biden (R).Pool via REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque; REUTERS/Andrej Isakovic
  • Biden on Thursday wouldn't commit to addressing Khashoggi's murder when he visits Saudi Arabia.
  • "I always bring up human rights. But my position on Khashoggi has been so clear," Biden said.
  • Biden has been accused of undermining his pledge to make the kingdom a "pariah."

President Joe Biden on Thursday would not directly say whether he plans to address Jamal Khashoggi's brutal murder when he visits Saudi Arabia and meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week. 

"My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely, positively clear and I have never been quiet about talking about human rights," Biden said during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in response to a reporter's question on whether he'd raise the issue during his trip. 

When the reporter followed up and once again asked whether Biden would mention Khashoggi as he visits the kingdom, Biden replied, "I always bring up human rights. But my position on Khashoggi has been so clear. If anyone doesn't understand it, in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else, then they haven't been around for a while."


On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" over Khashoggi's killing.

"We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are," Biden said of the Saudi government during a presidential debate in November 2019.

"They have to be held accountable," Biden added.

Biden entered the White House in January 2021 vowing to recalibrate US-Saudi relations. Last year, the Biden administration released a declassified intelligence report that explicitly implicated Prince Mohammed — the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia — in Khashoggi's murder.

Along these lines, Biden has faced criticism over his foreign visit. 

"A presidential trip to Saudi Arabia right now is going to be confirmation, validation not just that it's business as usual but that MBS got away with murder," Aaron David Miller, a former US diplomat who advised multiple secretaries of state on the Middle East, told Insider last month.

But Biden on Thursday said maintaining ties with the Saudis is vital to ensuring there's not a power vacuum in the region that US adversaries exploit. 

Biden said the reasons he's going to Saudi Arabia is "much broader," emphasizing that he's traveling there to "promote US interests." 

"I think we have an opportunity to reassert what I think we made a mistake of walking away from — our influence in the Middle East," Biden said. 

"We can continue to lead in the region and not create a vacuum — a vacuum that is filled by China and/or Russia against the interests of both Israel and the United States and many other countries," he added. 

Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia comes as his administration tries to revive the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, and amid worldwide concerns over oil brought on by disruptions linked to both the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine. 

The US president, who landed in Israel on Wednesday, is set to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Friday. This week's trip marks Biden's first visit to the Middle East as commander-in-chief.

Read the original article on Business Insider