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Thursday, 12 December 2019

Local, regional and int'l reactions to Saudi steps after announcement of Khashoggi's death

Reuters , Saturday 20 Oct 2018
US President Donald Trump with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
File Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 20, 2017. (Reuters)
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"The case of Khashoggi took place on Saudi sovereign territory and it will be looked at by Saudi courts when all procedures are complete," Saudi Arabia's justice minister said in a statement issued by state news agency SPA on Saturday afternoon.

Saudi Arabia had said late Friday night that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate, its first admission of his death after two weeks of denials that have shaken Western relations with the powerful kingdom.

King Salman Ibn Abdel-Aziz had ordered the dismissal of five officials, including Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court adviser, and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri.

The Kingdom also arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with the case.

King Salman Ibn Abdel-Aziz also ordered the restructuring of the country's intelligence services under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Turkish officials have suspected Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the consulate by Saudi agents. 

His body has yet to be found as a Saudi source told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the whreabouts of the body are unknown as it was handed over to a local operator.

The ruling AK Party's spokesman said on Saturday that "Turkey does not want anything covered up in the case of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, nor will it blame anyone in advance," according to Reuters.

Some Western governments and politicians gave guarded or skeptical responses to the Saudi explanation, but Middle Eastern allies closed ranks around the kingdom.

Trump says 'credible', US lawmakers skeptical

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has forged close ties with the world's top oil exporter and made Riyadh a centerpiece of his foreign policy, said the Saudi account was credible.

"I think it's a good first step, it's a big step," Trump said in Arizona after the Saudi revelation.

"Saudi Arabia has been a great ally. What happened is unacceptable," the US president said.

Trump added he would speak with the crown prince. But Trump again emphasised Riyadh's role in countering regional rival Iran and the importance a lucrative U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia for American jobs.

Before the Saudi announcements, Trump had said he might consider sanctions although he has also appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudi leadership.

The White House said it would continue to press for "justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process".

Meanwhile, some U.S. lawmakers were unpersuaded by the Saudi account.

"To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement," Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said.

Democrat Senator Jack Reed, said the Saudis were still not forthcoming with the truth. "This appears to have been a deliberate, planned act followed by a cover-up," he said.

The case and the search for the truth?

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, went missing after entering the consulate on 2 October to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.

The Saudi public prosecutor said on Saturday that a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

A Saudi official told Reuters separately: "A group of Saudis had a physical altercation and Jamal died as a result of the chokehold. They were trying to keep him quiet."

The prince had no knowledge of the specific operation that resulted in Khashoggi's death, a Saudi official familiar with the Saudi investigation said.

Turkish investigators, who have been combing a forest and other sites outside Istanbul, are likely to find out what happened to Khashoggi's body "before long", a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Saturday.

The state of the body when found, could make it difficult to ascertain whether the Saudi account of the killing is accurate if it has indeed been dismembered.

Turkish sources say the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi's murder inside the consulate, as reported in media outlets. 

Western apprehension and criticism

Britian said on Saturday it was considering its "next steps", while the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said today that further investigations are needed.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned in a statement on Saturday afternoon the killing of Khashoggi and said explanations so far given of the circumstances of his death were inadequate.

Spain's government also said it was "dismayed" by information from Riyadh about the death of the dissident Saudi journalist.

Regional allies support kingdom steps

Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Yemen issued statements to support the king's decisions.

Cairo said that it values the results of the preliminary investigations released by Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor- general in the case of Khashoggi, and described the steps taken by the king as "decisive and brave", according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Saturday.

Egypt extended its sincere condolences to the family of Khashoggi, while stressing "its confidence that the judicial proceedings undertaken by the Saudi government will determine the truth of what happened, based on conclusive evidence, and preempt any attempt to politicize the case in order to target the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

The Kingdom of Bahrain also praised directives and decisions of Saudi king, Arabiya TV said.

The United Arab Emirates "commends directives and decisions of Saudi King Salman on the issue of Khashoggi," WAM said on Twitter.

Yemen praised decisions made by the Saudi king in relation to the death of dissident journalist, according to the government's state news agency.

In Saudi Arabia, there was widespread support for the king and the crown prince on Twitter, with hashtags such as "#I am Saudi and I defend it" and "#Saudi kingdom of justice" trending.

For her part, Khashoggi's Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted in Arabic: "The heart grieves, the eye tears, and with your separation we are saddened, my dear Jamal," she said, also asking "#where is martyr Khashoggi's body?"

*This story was edited and by Ahram Online.

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