U.S. Sens. Angus King of Maine, left, and Todd Young of Indiana met Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Official Saudi Press Agency photo

During a Sunday session in Saudi Arabia, U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine talked with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about last year’s murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

King, a second-term independent, told CNN that he and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, had a “very, very direct” conversation with the man accused of ordering the killing Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

A United Nations expert, Agnes Callamard of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, investigated the journalist’s death and concluded he was the victim of a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and that “the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible” and ought to be investigated.

A Turkish newspaper this week disclosed the transcript of an audio recording it obtained of the October 2018 murder that made clear the journalist was smothered and dismembered by a Saudi hit team within 12 minutes of arriving at the consulate.

“Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched,” she reported in June.

Maine’s junior senator, who traveled to the region as part of a congressional delegation, told CNN that bin Salman “did not seem surprised or taken aback” when the two senators raised the Khashoggi issue with the crown prince who is the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia.

“I think he knows he’s got a problem. He knows he has to be more open and people have to be held accountable,” King told CNN.

CNN said that King declined to provide details of the private conversation, but spoke in general terms that the crown prince is “ready to talk” about what happened to Khashoggi “and confront it.”

King said that the people involved in the killing “have to be held accountable and I think he has to take on some level of responsibility, whether or not he gave the order” because “he’s still a head of state and it happened on his watch.”

King and Young also expressed concern to the crown prince about the Saudi role in a bloody war in neighboring Yemen.

Both senators voted recently against proposed military sales to Saudi Arabia because of the country’s involvement in the war.

“I don’t want to be complicit in killing civilians. It’s pretty straight forward,” King told CNN.

The two senators visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman during their trip to the Middle East.

“Tensions that originate in the Middle East ripple out to affect the rest of the world, so it’s vital that the United States continues to engage with our partners in the region,” King said in a prepared statement. “This trip allowed us to gain further insight into the region’s challenges and opportunities through frank conversations with key regional players about security concerns and human rights protections, and by hearing directly from our military and diplomatic personnel who are on the front lines of implementing U.S. policy. I’m looking forward to bringing my findings from this trip back to the Senate to inform how we support stability in the region and check malign actors like Iran.”

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