Saudi King Salman talked to US President Joe Biden on the phone in which the king was assured by Mr Biden that he would work for bilateral ties “as strong and transparent as possible.” The call was made on Thursday, ahead of the expected release of a sensitive U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The report is a declassified version of a top-secret assessment that sources say singles out the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of KSA for approving the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia denies the allegation of Muhammad Bin Salman being involved ordering the kill.
During the call, as per White House, Biden and Salman discussed regional security and other issues and the new U.S. president told the Saudi monarch that “he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible.”
The White House said in a statement,
“The two leaders affirmed the historic nature of the relationship.”
The White House did not mention the Khashoggi report, a test of the decades-long close ties between the allies as they try working together to confront growing Iranian influence in the Middle East.
The release of the declassified report on his death is part of Biden’s recalibration of U.S.-Saudi relations in part over Khashoggi’s murder.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told an earlier briefing,
“Our administration is focused on recalibrating the relationship. And certainly, there are areas where we will express concerns and leave open the option of accountability.”
She added in an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia’s main rival and U.S. foe, Iran.
“There are also areas where we will continue to work with Saudi Arabia given the threats they face in the region.”
According to Reuters, Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi mission in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018 and killed by a team of Saudi operatives linked to the crown prince. They dismembered his body, which has never been found.