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Biden, Saudi king talk ahead of Khashoggi report release

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U.S. President Joe Biden told Saudi King Salman Thursday (February 25) that he would work for bilateral ties that are "as strong and transparent as possible," according to the White House, ahead of the expected release of a U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The report is a declassified version of a top-secret assessment that sources say singles out the 85-year-old king's son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia denies that the 35-year-old crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, approved the killing.

Biden and Salman also discussed regional security amongst other issues.

The White House said in a statement;

"The two leaders affirmed the historic nature of the relationship" - but it did not mention the Khashoggi report.

Biden later told reporters that the call, their first since he took office last month, was "good."

A Saudi news agency statement also sounded a positive note. It said Salman congratulated Biden on the presidency and that the pair stressed "the depth" of bilateral ties and the "importance of strengthening the partnership."

A source told Reuters that the report's release was awaiting the call. It was also delayed as the crown prince underwent surgery earlier this week.

The release of the declassified report on Khashoggi's death is part of Biden's recalibration of U.S.-Saudi relations in part over his murder.

But Biden has said he wants to maintain strong ties with one of Washington's closest allies in the region.

Video Transcript

- US President Joe Biden told Saudi King Salman Thursday that he would work for bilateral ties that are as strong and transparent as possible, according to the White House, ahead of the expected release of a US intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report is a declassified version of a top secret assessment that sources say singles out the 85-year-old king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for approving the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia denies that the 35-year-old Crown Prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, approved the killing. Biden and Salman also discussed regional security amongst other issues. The White House said in a statement the two leaders affirmed the historic nature of the relationship but did not mention the Khashoggi report. Biden later told reporters that the call, their first since he took office last month, was good.

A Saudi news agency statement also sounded a positive note. It said Salman congratulated Biden on the presidency and that the pair stressed the depth of bilateral ties and the importance of strengthening the partnership. A source told Reuters that the report's release was awaiting the call. It was also delayed as the Crown Prince underwent surgery earlier this week.

The release of the declassified report on Khashoggi's death is part of Biden's recalibration of US-Saudi relations, in part, over his murder. But Biden has said he wants to maintain strong ties with one of Washington's closest allies in the region.