(WB) President Biden on Thursday stressed he has “never been quiet about talking about human rights” in response to a question about whether he will raise them while in Saudi Arabia.
Biden made the comment in response to a reporter’s question during a press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid after their meeting, which took place a day before the U.S. president travels to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.
The reporter specifically asked Biden about Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
American intelligence has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s murder. Biden is expected to meet with bin Salman while in the Saudi city of Jiddah, even though the U.S. president previously said he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month told the Washington Blade during a roundtable with LGBTQ and intersex reporters that the State Department has used the “Khashoggi Ban” to sanction more than 70 Saudi citizens and others who have targeted journalists, government critics and others in a third country. Biden on Thursday said his “views on Khashoggi have been made absolutely, positively clear.”
“I always bring up human rights, but my position on Khashoggi has been so clear,” said Biden.
Blinken last month said Biden “will be bringing up rights issues across the board when he’s in Saudi Arabia, as he does in any country where we have or he has concerns.” Blinken further noted the U.S. welcomes the Saudi government’s efforts to combat extremism, counter Iran’s influence in the Middle East and its role in the continued ceasefire in Yemen.
“At the same time, we have been very determined from day one to recalibrate the relationship, not rupture it, recalibrate, because we had concerns that it wasn’t as effectively as it could be advancing our own interests and our own values,” said Blinken. “So, we took the time to do that.”
“It’s a long way of saying that there are complex issues,” he added. “Human rights, including LGBTQI rights, are something that is central to our foreign policy, but it’s not the totality of it. And everything has to be reflected in what we do and we have to make a judgment, which may be right or may be wrong, about what is the most effective way to advance these issues in this agenda.”
SFGN and the Washington Blade are media partners.