US President Joe Biden has been criticised at home for his visit to Saudi Arabia. Senator Bernie Sanders said that it "rewards a dictatorship" and the visit shouldn't have occurred given the de facto Saudi ruler's "involvement in the murder of a journalist," Reuters has reported.
Biden fist-bumped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman shortly after his arrival in Jeddah. US intelligence agencies believe that Bin Salman ordered the murder of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
When asked if Biden should have made the visit, Sanders told ABC on Sunday, "No, I don't think so. You have a leader of the country who was involved in the murder of a Washington Post journalist. I don't think that type of government should be rewarded with a visit by the president of the United States."
Khashoggi's murder in the US Consulate in Istanbul is a major point of contention between Washington and Riyadh. When he was a presidential candidate, Biden said that the Kingdom should become a global pariah because of Khashoggi's murder. Bin Salman has denied that he ordered the killing.
The journalist was a Saudi citizen close to the royal family before becoming a critic. He lived in self-imposed exile in Virginia. Biden said on Friday that he had informed the prince that he held him responsible for the killing, but a Saudi official who attended the meeting said that what took place between the two leaders was not what Biden described.
Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia, which he had previously said he would isolate internationally, was aimed at resetting relations between the two countries. Fuel prices have risen to record levels this year and this has complicated the relationship. The US has called on oil-producing countries to increase production to make up for the shortfall caused by Western sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Sanders was a candidate running against Biden in the Democratic primaries to choose the party's presidential nominee. He said that the US should impose an extraordinary profit tax on oil companies rather than improve relations with Saudi Arabia.
"Look, you have a family that is worth $100 billion, which questions democracy, which treats women as third-class citizens, which murders and imprisons its opponents," he explained to ABC. "If this country believes in anything, we believe in human rights, we believe in democracy, and I just don't believe that we should be maintaining a warm relationship with a dictatorship like that."