BEIRUT, Lebanon — The king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia have each sent cables congratulating President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his electoral victory, an initial effort by Saudi leaders, who have benefited from a strong relationship with President Trump, to build ties with the new American administration.
Throughout his term, Mr. Trump maintained close bonds with the Saudi monarch, King Salman, and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often protecting the kingdom from outrage in other parts of Washington over its role in the war in Yemen and the killing and dismemberment of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in 2018.
Mr. Trump defended the Saudis as necessary friends in the Middle East and great buyers of American weapons, and Jared Kushner, a senior adviser and the president’s son-in-law, kept in close contact with Prince Mohammed, sometimes over the messaging platform WhatsApp.
Mr. Biden adopted a tougher line toward Saudi Arabia during the campaign, saying he would limit weapons sales and hold the kingdom accountable for human rights violations. During a debate last year, he said he believed that Prince Mohammed had ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and would treat the Saudis “like the pariah that they are.”
It remained unclear how that rhetoric would translate into policy, but the Saudi leadership considers the United States its most important ally and clearly wants warm ties with its new president.
The cables, reported late Sunday by the Saudi press agency, congratulated Mr. Biden on his victory, spoke of strong relations between the two countries and the Saudis’ desire to deepen them.