WASHINGTON: The US is focused on “future conduct” of Saudi Arabia and will expect Riyadh to improve its human rights record, a US spokesman said on Monday, after Washington imposed sanctions on some Saudis for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but fell short of sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Washington’s failure to penalise the crown prince has been criticised by rights groups and others, raising questions about accountability and the Biden administration’s pledge to make human rights a foreign policy priority.
Prince Mohammed, the 35-year old de facto ruler, has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s killing, for which eight people were jailed in Saudi Arabia last year, but has said he bears ultimate responsibility because it happened on his watch.
“We are very focused on future conduct and that is part of why we have cast this not as a rupture, but as a recalibration” of US-Saudi relations, US state department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing.
“We are trying to get to the systemic issues underlying the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Price said.
The US welcomed the recent release of two human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Price said, but asked Riyadh to do more by lifting the travel ban on them.
“We are urging Saudi Arabia to take additional steps – to lift travel bans on those released, to commute sentences and resolve cases such as those women’s rights activists and others,” he said.