Published: Fri, October 19, 2018

Saudi government reportedly grappling with Khashoggi explanation to save face

Saudi government reportedly grappling with Khashoggi explanation to save face

USA politicians have backed the call for tough punitive action against the Saudis, while Germany, France and Britain have jointly called for a "credible investigation" into his disappearance. "Who knows?" the president said, describing the situation as "terrible".

That appeared to be a direct reference to Saudi Arabia, which lashed out at Canada - recalling its ambassador, freezing trade, pulling students out of Canadian schools and even cancelling flights to Toronto - after a tweet from Freeland calling for the immediate release of detained activists, including Samar Badawi, a champion of women's rights and the sister of detained blogger Raif Badawi.

Saudi Arabia has begun an internal investigation into the disappearance of a prominent journalist at its Istanbul consulate and could hold people accountable if the evidence warrants it, according to a Saudi official.

A Saudi delegation arrived in Turkey on Friday to discuss the case with Turkish authorities, following a Turkish presidential spokesperson's announcement that a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation team would be formed upon the kingdom's request.

The Saudi Gazette trumpeted: "Enough Is Enough", while the Arab News said: "Saudi Arabia "will not be bullied".

The former USA official claimed that it would be inconceivable that the Saudis would run such an operation without the knowledge of the day-to-day decision maker, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. While Saudi Arabia and Turkey have already said they would cooperate in a joint investigation, this would be a separate inquiry, the official said.

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family and columnist for the Washington Post, has been missing since visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Mr Trump was sending Mr Pompeo to Riyadh because "determining what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is something of great importance to the President".

Saudi Arabia rejected threats to punish it over the disappearance, saying the kingdom would retaliate against any sanctions with tougher measures.

Trump's comments may be a sign that Washington is preparing to accept Saudi Arabia's efforts to distance its leaders from whatever fate befell Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate.

A Turkish prosecutor left around one and a half hours later, followed shortly after by a Saudi team that departed in three vehicles, another witness said.

King Salman has replaced two crown princes in the past.

Trump has said there are other ways to send a message, but has not yet provided details.

If that group is to be characterized as part of a rogue operation meant to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia alive, questions could arise about Salah Muhammed al-Tubaiqi. Despite being anxious for his safety, he had gone into the consulate in Istanbul to get a document necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee, the partner and friends have said.

In protest of Khashoggi's disappearance, several USA businesses leaders have pulled out of next week's Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, dubbed "Davos in the Desert", after the annual meeting of world economic interests in Switzerland.

"If they don't buy it from us, they're going to buy it from Russian Federation or they're going to buy it from China or they're going to buy it from other countries", Trump said at a news conference on Saturday.

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