President Biden said Friday that he will hold Saudi Arabia accountable after the government released a report revealing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In an interview with Univision, Biden detailed a conversation he had Thursday with Saudi King Salman in which he emphasized the U.S. would push Riyadh to honor human rights amid lingering criticism over the killing of Khashoggi, a columnist from The Washington Post who lived in Virginia and was critical of the Saudi royal family.
“I spoke yesterday with the king, not the prince. Made it clear to him that the rules are changing and we’re going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday. We are going to hold them accountable for human rights abuses and we’re going to make sure that they, in fact, if they want to deal with us, they have to deal with it in a way that the human rights abuses are dealt with,” Biden said.
“And we’re trying to do that across the world,” he continued. “But particularly here, this report has been sitting there, the last administration wouldn’t even release it. We immediately, when I got in, filed the report, read it, got it, and released it today. And it is outrageous what happened.”
The remarks come as bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill call for a realignment of Washington’s historically close relationship with Riyadh. Frustration with Saudi Arabia has been growing not only over Khashoggi’s killing but also the Saudi-backed offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen, which observers have said has worsened a humanitarian crisis in the country.
“I am hopeful it is only a first step and that the administration plans to take concrete measures holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally responsible for his role in this heinous crime,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement, referencing the release of the report.
In response to the report, the Biden administration on Friday rolled out sanctions against people involved in Khashoggi’s killing and imposed visa restrictions against 76 Saudis believed to be engaged in threatening dissidents overseas.
The White House did not, however, announce any specific punishment for Mohammed, the day-to-day ruler of the kingdom.
Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was trying to obtain documents for a marriage license. Turkish authorities have said they believe Khashoggi was strangled upon his arrival and later dismembered in an attempt to hide his body.