Biden says he raised killing of journalist Khashoggi at meeting with Saudi’s MBS

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US President Joe Biden said Friday he raised the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi "at the top of the meeting" with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in Jeddah, on day three of his first Middle East tour as president.

"What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous ... I just made it clear if anything occurs like that again they will get that response and much more," Biden said after meeting MbS, who US intelligence officials believe ordered the operation that led to Khashoggi's death.

“I raised (the killing of Khashoggi) at the top of the meeting,” Biden said. “I said, very straightforwardly: For an American president to be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am.”

Biden said that MBS responded to his comments on Khashoggi in the following way: “He (MBS) basically said that he was not personally responsible for [the killing]. I indicated I thought he was.”

Biden landed in Saudi Arabia Friday and met MBS, sealing a retreat from his presidential campaign pledge to turn the kingdom into a "pariah" over human rights abuses.

Saudi state media showed images of Air Force One at the airport in Jeddah after a flight from Israel, making Biden the first US leader to fly directly from the Jewish state to the coastal city.

The US president walked down a purple carpet and was greeted by Mecca province governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal and the ambassador to Washington, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud.

State television Al-Ekhbariya later showed MBS, the kingdom's de facto ruler, greeting Biden with a fist bump before escorting him into the Al-Salam palace.

Biden met Saudi King Salman, 86, then had a "working session" with MBS, flanked by top officials.

After taking office last year, Biden's administration released US intelligence findings that MBS "approved" an operation targeting Khashoggi, a resident of the US state of Virginia and Washington Post columnist, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate sparked global outrage.

Saudi officials deny MBS was involved and say Khashoggi's death resulted from a "rogue" operation.

Khashoggi's widow, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted an imagined response from Khashoggi to Friday's meeting.

"Is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS's next victim is on your hands," she wrote.

On Saturday Biden is scheduled to meet with Arab leaders in a bid to persuade Washington's Gulf allies to pump more oil and to integrate Israel in the region as part of a new axis largely driven by shared concerns over Iran.

The meeting in Saudi Arabia's second city Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, will bring together leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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