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Biden stresses human rights in talks with Saudi king

  • 25 Feb 2021

US President Biden reaffirms commitment to Saudi defence but pushes for human rights in talks by phone with Saudi King Salman, White House says.

Saudi King Salman (L) stresses in his call with US President Biden the kingdom's keenness on reaching a comprehensive political solution in Yemen. ( Reuters Archive )

US President Joe Biden has reaffirmed Washington's commitment to Saudi Arabia's defence but stressed the importance of human rights in a long-delayed first call with Saudi King Salman, the White House said.

They discussed "the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups," a statement said on Thursday.

However, Biden also "affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law" in the call.

"The [Saudi] King stressed in the call with President Biden the deep ties between the two countries and the importance of boosting partnership to serve mutual interests and achieve regional and international security and stability," Saudi state news agency SPA reported. 

King Salman also stressed in his call with Biden the kingdom's keenness on reaching a comprehensive political solution in Yemen, SPA said. 

READ MORE: MBS downgraded as Biden attempts to show he’s not Trump

US intelligence report on Khashoggi

The phone conversation has been overshadowed by a soon-to-be-released US intelligence report on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

Asked how the release of the findings would affect Biden's approach toward Saudi Arabia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that a range of options were on the table.

"There are areas where we will express concerns and leave open the option of accountability," Psaki said. 

"There are also areas where we will continue to work with Saudi Arabia, given the threats they face in the region."

US Congress in 2019 had demanded the release of the report’s findings, but then Trump administration refused. The Biden administration agreed to release a declassified version.

Saudi Arabian courts last year announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi's killing. 

They were not identified.

READ MORE: Biden administration freezes giant UAE jet package, Saudi arms for review

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