The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 24, 2018.
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President Joe Biden said his administration would announce how it plans to deal with relations with Saudi Arabia on Monday, days after an intelligence report publicly linked the Saudi crown prince to the death of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden made the comments to press on Saturday when asked if he would punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the murder of journalist Khashoggi.
“It will be announced on Monday what we will do with Saudi Arabia in general,” Biden told reporters. The White House did not immediately return a request to provide more details about the announcement.
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old American and a Washington Post columnist, was a critic of the Saudi royal family. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and never left.
Khashoggi was killed, his body was dismembered, and his remains were never recovered.
The office of the director of the National Intelligence Service released a report on Friday finding that the Saudi crown prince approved the operation that killed Khashoggi, citing bin Salman’s control over decision-making in Saudi Arabia.
The CIA-led assessment, which had previously been classified, also mentioned the involvement of a key advisor and members of the prince’s protective detail in the operation in which Khashoggi was killed.
The New York Times reported Friday that the Biden administration would not punish the crown prince for Khashoggi’s murder. The White House ruled that such measures would create excessive costs for US-Saudi Arabia cooperation on counter-terrorism and confrontation with Iran, according to the Times.
However, in a diplomatic reprimand to the Crown Prince this week, the White House made it clear that Biden does not see 35-year-old bin Salman as his counterpart and will instead lead relationships through his aging father, King Salman.
Bin Salman has been the public face of the kingdom since he became Crown Prince in 2017.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday imposed visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals believed to have “threatened overseas dissidents, including but not limited to the murder of Khashoggi”.
When asked why the Crown Prince was not among the punished, Blinken emphasized the importance of US interests and not the disruption of relations with Saudi Arabia.
In a statement on Friday, the Saudi government said it disagreed with the conclusions of the report as completely unacceptable, claiming the assessment contained inaccurate information.
Riyadh condemned Khashoggi’s murder as a “heinous crime” contrary to the laws and values of the kingdom and blamed his death on a rogue group.
– CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report