US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he has already seen a soon-to-be released intelligence report detailing the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“Yes I have,” he told reporters when asked if he’d read the intelligence assessment.
Earlier, the White House said the unclassified report would be out “soon.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was also “soon” due to speak with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for the first time since taking office in January.
Psaki would not confirm a report in Axios that the Biden call with Salman would take place Wednesday and that the unclassified intelligence report would be published Thursday.
Asked when the call would take place, Biden only said: “We’re going to be talking to him, I have not spoken to him yet.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi who wrote for The Washington Post and was a US resident, was killed and dismembered in 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The CIA has directly linked Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the murder. He has accepted overall responsibility, as his country’s leader, but denies a personal link.
Biden has stressed he will “recalibrate” the US relationship with Saudi Arabia.
This will mean steering away from former president Donald Trump’s reliance on Prince Mohammed and dealing directly with the king, the White House says.
Pres Biden says he has read the intel report on the murder of journalist Jamal #Khashoggi and will be talking to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. WH press secretary Jen Psaki said the call would be happening "soon" is @betsy_klein #CNN #SaudiArabia
— lisa mirando (@LisaMirandoCNN) February 24, 2021
However, there are clearly limits to how far the Biden administration is ready to go in punishing oil-rich Saudi Arabia, a strategic ally in the Islamic world.
“He will speak out when there are human rights abuses, about the lack of freedom of speech, or the lack of freedom of media and expression,” Psaki said.
“At the same time, we have a long relationship with Saudi Arabia. They are being attacked in the region and that is certainly an area where we continue to work with them.”
The contents of the intelligence report will pile pressure on the Saudi leadership, which got little pushback from the Trump administration.
Already the episode has badly tarnished the reputation of the powerful crown prince who had positioned himself as a forward thinking reformer in the monarchy.
According to CNN on Wednesday, court documents in a Canadian civil lawsuit filed earlier this year show that two private jets used by the squad allegedly sent to murder Khashoggi was owned by a company earlier seized by Prince Mohammed.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk