Saudi Arabia understands the need to conclude its investigation into the disappearance of government critic Jamal Khashoggi in a timely and rapid fashion, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
“They told me they were going to conduct a thorough, complete transparent investigation” and made a commitment to holding anyone connected to any wrongdoing accountable, Pompeo told reporters Wednesday as he headed to Turkey, where the journalist was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Turkish officials have said privately, without offering evidence, that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia initially said the Washington Post contributor exited the building alive, without backing up that claim.
However, they’ve since undertaken an internal probe, and some Saudi officials have floated an alternative narrative suggesting he died in a botched interrogation. That explanation could deflect suspicions that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered him killed and give the US and Turkey a way out of confronting an important regional player.
The Trump administration is under mounting pressure from top members of Congress to act against a regime that is a linchpin of his administration’s Middle East strategy. President Donald Trump has responded equivocally, both promising harsh action if the royal court is implicated in Khashoggi’s disappearance and saying he’d be reluctant to cancel multibillion-dollar arms sales to the Kingdom.
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Trump criticised the rush to bash Saudi Arabia before the results of the investigations are in, while telling Fox Business Network that if the Saudi royal court “knew about it, that would be bad.”
Khashoggi vanished 2 October after going to the consulate to pick up a document he needed to marry. Asked if the Saudis said Khashoggi is alive or dead, Pompeo replied, “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts; they didn’t want, to, either” as they work through the investigation.
Turkish officials have stepped up pressure on the Saudis over the episode, providing the Washington Post with scans of passports that they say were carried by seven men who were part of a Saudi team involved in killing Khashoggi.
Khashoggi’s disappearance has prompted a range of top global business leaders to pull out of an investment conference scheduled for next week in Riyadh. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, deferred a trip to Saudi Arabia that would’ve included a visit to the conference, which has been designed to highlight the kingdom’s modernisation plans.