Blinken says no plans for Saudi crown prince to visit Washington

The 37-year-old prince — widely known as MBS — has been at the centre of diplomatic turmoil with the United States and other powers since the grisly 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.

President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July, and his administration has faced new criticism since it was revealed this month that the United States granted the prince immunity from prosecution as the head of the Saudi government.

Speaking after talks with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Blinken said: “With regard to MBS, there are no plans for him to travel to Washington.”

A federal court sought the government’s opinion after Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz started legal proceedings.

Blinken told a press conference the US administration had followed “longstanding legal practice” that a head of state or government, or foreign minister, was “entitled to immunity”.

“This is a determination that we’ve made in dozens, hundreds of cases over the years. And in every case, we simply follow the law,” he said.

“The opinion that we provided does not speak in any way to the merits of the case nor the current status of the bilateral relationship.

“Our review of that relationship is ongoing,” insisted Blinken, who arrived in Doha on Monday, a day after the prince was at the football World Cup opening ceremony.

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