The US government is expected to release a declassified intelligence report that finds the Saudi crown prince responsible for approving the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Three officials familiar with the matter told NBC News that in the report – contributed to mostly by the CIA – an assessment is thought to find Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely ordered the killing of the Washington Post columnist.
Mr Khashoggi disappeared in 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he is later believed to have been dismembered.
His remains have never been found.
The release of the report, expected later on Thursday, is expected to mark a significant shift in US-Saudi relations, which under Donald Trump’s administration saw the major oil producer given a relaxed ride on human rights issues, its role in the Yemen war, and more.
Mr Trump also rejected calls from politicians and human rights groups to release the then-classified report in 2018 when it was first briefed to Congress.
He is said to have been keen to keep his Arab ally close amid increasing tensions with Iran – the Saudi’s rival in the region – as well as wanting to promote US arms sales.
Under Joe Biden, however, the new US administration is looking to shift ties to a more traditional approach, starting with the president’s first phone conversation with Saudi King Salman.
On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Mr Biden would only have communications with the 85-year-old king – another shift away from Mr Trump’s cosy relationship with the crown prince, who is the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Ms Psaki also confirmed the declassified report on Mr Khashoggi’s killing was being readied for release.
Riyadh has already admitted Mr Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue” extradition operation that went wrong, but has denied involvement from the crown prince, whose policies were often criticised in the writer’s columns.
Five men were eventually sentenced to death for the murder, but their sentences were commuted to 20 years in prison after being forgiven by Mr Khashoggi’s family.
During his 2020 presidential campaign, Mr Biden promised to realign Saudi ties with the US and has already ended offensive arms sales that could be utilised in Yemen.
He has also appointed a special envoy to help diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the Yemeni civil war.