RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed on Wednesday that the killers of Jamal Khashoggi would be brought to justice — his first public comments since the journalist’s murder sparked global condemnation.
Striking a defiant tone, Prince Mohammed told participants at an investment conference in Riyadh that the furore over Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul would not derail the reform drive.
His comments came hours after US President Donald Trump was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that since he was Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the crown prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.
Take a look: Jamal Khashoggi case
“We will prove to the world that the two governments (Saudi and Turkish) are cooperating to punish any criminal, any culprit and at the end justice will prevail,” the crown prince said to applause.
The world’s top oil exporter has come under increasing pressure over the death of Khashoggi, a columnist and one of the crown prince’s most prominent critics.
Trump says since Mohammed is S. Arabia’s de facto ruler, he bears ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to journalist’s death
Khashoggi’s murder has strained Riyadh’s ties with the West and led western politicians, top world bankers and company executives to boycott the conference, which opened on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia first denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate, but a Saudi official eventually attributed his death on Oct 2 to a botched attempt to return him to the country.
Turkey has dismissed Saudi efforts to blame rogue operatives and urged Riyadh to search “top to bottom” for those responsible.
Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia and Turkey would work together “to reach results” on a joint investigation and described cooperation between the two countries as “special”, despite criticism from Ankara.
“The incident that happened is very painful, for all Saudis... The incident is not justifiable,” the crown prince said on a discussion panel at the conference.
Erdogan spoke to Prince Mohammed on Wednesday and the two discussed the steps needed to bring to light all aspects of Khashoggi’s death, a presidential source said.
Saudi authorities did not respond to a request for comment about the remarks by President Trump or the Erdogan adviser, but Prince Mohammed painted a different picture of relations with Turkey.
“There are now those who are trying to take advantage of the painful situation to create a rift between the kingdom and Turkey,” he said.
“I want to send them a message that they cannot do this as long as there is a king named Salman bin Abdulaziz and a crown prince named Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, and a president in Turkey named Erdogan.”
In his comments to the Wall Street Journal, Trump said he wanted to believe Prince Mohammed when he said lower level officials were to blame for Khashoggi’s death. But the US president suggested responsibility lay higher up.
“Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him,” Trump said.
France said on Wednesday it could impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia if its intelligence services establish that it was behind Khashoggi’s murder, although government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said there would be no hasty conclusions.
“Don’t spread rumours"
The Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh was overshadowed by Khashoggi’s killing, with over 20 high-level participants withdrawing.
But Saudi Arabia showed it could still do business despite the furor, signing deals worth $50 billion at the conference. The event was attended by hundreds of bankers and company executives.
Prince Mohammed, 33, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and architect of its reform drive, was upbeat on the economy, predicting growth of 2.5 percent this year.
He seemed relaxed on the panel he shared with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa and Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al Hariri. He joked about Hariri’s “detention” last year, saying the Lebanese prime minister was free to leave after attending the conference.
“Prime Minister Saad is staying in the kingdom for two days so I hope you don’t spread rumours that he was kidnapped,” Prince Mohammed, who is also known as MbS, said.
Pulished in Dawn, October 25th , 2018
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