President Joe Biden fielded several questions about slain Washington Post columnist and Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi at a press conference in Saudi Arabia on Friday. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by his initials as MBS, gave the order that resulted in the brutal killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi in 2018.
To prepare for his impending marriage, Khashoggi had traveled to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in late September 2018 to obtain a document stating he was divorced, but was told he would need to come back to pick it up. He returned in early October 2018, went inside the consulate and never came back outside.
In a move that Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan called “shameful,” Biden reportedly began his visit to the oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom on Friday by meeting and fist-bumping Bin Salman in greeting.
The murdered journalist’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz has been extremely outspoken about Biden’s visit to the country, and on Friday she shared an image on social media of what she believes her spouse-to-be would’ve said about the commander in chief’s fist bump with the crown prince.
“Hey @POTUS, Is this the accountability you promised for my murder?” Cengiz tweeted, sharing a mockup of a tweet from Khashoggi’s account. “The blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands.”
At the press conference, Biden was asked for comment about Cengiz’s tweet.
“I’m sorry she feels that way,” he said. “I was straightforward back then; I was straightforward today.
“This is a meeting,” Biden said, according to Mediaite. “I didn’t come here to meet the crown prince. I came here to meet the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], the nine nations, to deal with the security and the needs of the free world, particularly the United States, and not leave a vacuum here, which was happening as it has in other parts of the world.”
Following Khashoggi’s murder, Biden pledged, while on the campaign trail, to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” on the global stage.
Energy and security interests have since prompted the president to pursue a different strategy with the Gulf oil giant, as it strengthens ties with Russia and China.
Ahead of Biden’s visit, Mediaite reported that Cengiz said meeting with bin Salman would be a “betrayal” done for oil.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters en route to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from Israel that Biden will discuss energy security with leaders of Gulf oil producers and hopes to see more action by OPEC+ to increase output.
“We are hopeful that we will see additional actions by OPEC+ in coming weeks,” Sullivan said.