White House mum on whether Biden will raise Khashoggi killing at Saudi summit

White House mum on whether Biden will raise Khashoggi killing at Saudi summit

The White House won’t say whether President Biden will raise the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his upcoming meeting with Saudi leaders on Friday.

Mr. Biden is traveling from Israel to Saudi Arabia for a meeting Friday that will include Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was implicated in the killing of Khashoggi, who was a U.S.-based dissident journalist and critic of the kingdom’s rulers.

Mr. Biden has faced pressure to take a tough stance with Saudi leaders over human rights. He made a campaign promise to render the kingdom a “pariah” state over Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

White House aides now will not say whether the president will raise the issue directly.

“He doesn’t describe the details of what he is going to raise in meetings particularly before he’s had them,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Biden was pressed on the matter Thursday in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and stopped short of committing to hold the Crown Prince’s feet to the fire.

“My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely, positively clear,” Mr. Biden said. “I have never been quiet about talking about human rights.”

Mr. Sullivan referred to Mr. Biden’s statement again on Friday.

“He always raises issues of human rights, and this will be no different,” Mr. Sullivan said. “What he will stand behind and send a very clear message on, and did yesterday, is the proposition that fundamental human rights are going to be on the agenda. He is going to raise them.”

He said that while the president intends to be straightforward in his meeting with Saudi leaders, he will not preview his specific remarks to the press.

“The president believes very strongly that his ability to be effective as a leader, and his ability to engage effectively diplomatically, depends on his ability to be able to have direct diplomacy without playing out all of these issues in the press,” Mr. Sullivan said.