The first face-to-face meeting between President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman was denounced as “shameful” by an international human rights group.
The meeting between Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed, the day-to-day ruler of Saudi Arabia, was the first between the two men since the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. The Trump administration has maintained its support for the Saudi crown prince in spite of U.S. intelligence agencies concluding that Mohammed bin Salman most likely ordered the killing.
“It’s shameful that Jared Kushner met with the crown prince but failed to even raise a single question about his role in ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director for Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, told Newsweek via email.
Whitson also decried Kushner’s failure to challenge Crown Prince Mohammed over Saudi Arabia’s continued war in Yemen or the government’s persecution and torture of female activists. “Jared may think he can sweep the piles of cadavers MBS is responsible for under some magic carpet, but neither the American people nor the newly elected and very empowered Congress will tolerate this,” said Whitson.
The White House said in a press release Wednesday that Kushner and a diplomatic delegation, including Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, and Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, met with the crown prince and his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Tuesday.
After a brief honeymoon on the international stage, Crown Prince Mohammed’s reputation took a nosedive after he was implicated in the killing of Khashoggi, a journalist and dissident who disappeared following a meeting at a Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
The Trump administration’s support for the prince barely wavered in the face of international condemnation for the killing. In a statement a month after the slaying of the journalist, Trump issued a statement that guaranteed U.S. support for the Arabian kingdom, admitting that the full truth about Kashoggi’s killing may never come to light.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” the president said at the time. “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”
The White House said that Kushner and U.S. officials discussed, among other things, efforts to facilitate peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Kushner, the White House’s point person on a potential Middle East peace deal, is hoping the Saudis will play a central role in the plan. The New York Times reported earlier this week that King Salman hosted President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, declaring his country maintained its unequivocal support for the right of Palestinians to an independent state.