US says position on Saudi prince’s impunity is not political

US administration officials have made it clear that the officially formulated position on the impunity of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman is not an attempt to improve relations between the two countries.

The US Justice Department had the previous day conveyed to the court an opinion that bin Salman, by virtue of his position as head of government, has immunity in the US from allegations of the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashuqji.

“Prime Minister bin Salman has immunity from lawsuits in US courts as long as he holds the position of prime minister, heads the government… The US has consistently under different administrations applied this principle to heads of state, governments, foreign ministers as long as they hold office. It is an unbreakable practice,” Vedant Patel, deputy press secretary of the State Department, told reporters.

“This definition is not related to the substance of the case … or the state of relations between our two countries,” he added.

A similar statement was made earlier by White House spokesman John Kirby.

The US is reviewing relations with Saudi Arabia after the kingdom ignored US calls to increase oil production and initiated OPEC production quota cuts.

Khashukji, who lived in the US and worked for the Washington Post newspaper, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul in 2018. US authorities have imposed sanctions against the crown prince’s entourage following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoukji. US intelligence agencies have estimated that bin Salman knew about the killing and the order may have come from him. Saudi Arabia denies this.

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