US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (local time) had a telephonic conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, where the two leaders discussed Iran and human rights issues. "They (Trump and Saudi Crown Prince) discussed Saudi Arabia's critical role in ensuring Middle East stability, maintaining maximum pressure against Iran, and the importance of human rights issues," The Hill quoted the White House as saying in a statement.
The telephonic call between Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince comes after Riyadh's human rights issues came under the lens following the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. The Donald Trump administration has been facing immense criticism from lawmakers for its response to Khashoggi's murder.
Khashoggi, who was a journalist with The Washington Post and a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year, where he had gone to obtain paperwork certifying his divorce with his former wife Alaa Nassif in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. After presenting several contradictory theories, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate premises in what it had described as a "rogue operation".
According to US intelligence agencies, Khashoggi's murder was enacted upon orders given by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. However, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly rejected all the allegations against its Crown Prince, adding that it is committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice. The US on Monday barred the entry of at least 16 Saudi nationals into the country over their alleged involvement in the murder of Khashoggi.
In the same day itself, Washington designated elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a "foreign terrorist organisation" in a bid to pressure Iran into abandoning "its deadly ambitions." This is the first time that the US labelled another country's governmental entity as a terror body. The designation makes it illegal to provide any materials to Iran's paramilitary organisation formed in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution to defend its government. Hours later, Iran retaliated by designating the US as a "state sponsor of terrorism", and labelled the US Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East as a "terror group".
(With inputs from agencies.)