WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has urged Saudi Arabia to hold a “thorough, transparent and timely investigation” into the murder of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, while a prominent Republican senator asked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to step down.
Secretary Pompeo met King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and the crown prince in Riyadh on Tuesday.
According to agency reports, the crown prince agreed there must be a thorough investigation into the disappearance.
“The Secretary reiterated the President’s (Donald Trump) concern with respect to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, as well as the President’s desire to determine what happened,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington.
“The Secretary welcomed Saudi Arabia’s support for the Turkish authorities’ investigation. The Secretary and the Crown Prince agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation that provides answers,” she said.
In an earlier statement, Ms Nauert said Michael Pompeo conveyed a similar message to King Salman and thanked “the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance”.
Ms Khashoggi disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 and various US media outlets reported on Monday that Saudi authorities are working on a statement which would acknowledge that Mr Khashoggi died during interrogation and that Riyadh would take immediate action against those responsible for his death.
But a powerful Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, said this statement would not be enough and urged the 33-year-old crown prince to step down. Media reports blame the prince for the journalist’s disappearance as Mr Khashoggi used to criticise him in public.
“Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS (Mohammed bin Salman) has tainted your country and tainted himself,” said Senator Graham, one of Mr Trump’s most prominent Congressional allies.
Agencies add: Turkish crime scene investigators entered the consulate for the first time on Monday since Khashoggi’s disappearance and searched the premises for more than nine hours.
US President Donald Trump speculated that “rogue killers” may be responsible.
In Istanbul, Turkish investigators were expanding their search to include the residence of the Saudi consul and consulate vehicles, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan raised the possibility that parts of the consulate had been repainted since Khashoggi disappeared.
“The investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over,” he told reporters.
Indicating unease over the Khashoggi case, international media and business executives are pulling out of an investment conference next week.
HSBC CEO John Flint joined the list on Tuesday , as did the CEOs of Standard Chartered and Credit Suisse. Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra told the Dutch parliament he most likely would not attend.
CNN said on Monday that after denying for two weeks any role in his disappearance, Saudi Arabia was preparing to say he died in a botched interrogation.
Our New York correspondent adds: UN Human Rights Chief has called on Saudi Arabia and Turkey to conduct an “impartial and transparent investigation”. Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that the two countries should “ensure that no further obstacles are placed in the way of a prompt, thorough, effective, impartial and transparent investigation.”
Bachelet said that two weeks “is a very long time for the probable scene of a crime not to have been subjected to a full forensic investigation.” “Given there seems to be clear evidence that Mr Khashoggi entered the Consulate and has never been seen since, the onus is on the Saudi authorities to reveal what happened to him from that point onwards,” she added.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2018