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Paul McLoughlin

Where countries stand on Saudi Arabia's Khashoggi 'killing' story

Khashoggi's death was claimed to be 'accidental' by Riyadh [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 October, 2018

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Germany is the latest country to join the growing outrage over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the latest world leader to give her views on Saudi Arabia's story about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Her response - damning.

After numerous reports that Saudi agents were sent over to murder Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, Riyadh has spent more than two weeks denying it knew anything about his whereabouts and insisted the journalist left the building alive.

Early Saturday morning, Saudi Arabia issued a statement saying that the 59-year-old journalist died in a "fist fight" at the consulate with 15 agents.

Riyadh said a cover up of Khashoggi's death emerged, and announced the sacking of deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, along with other officials.

Analysts have claimed that these two are the fall guys in this operation, with the royal court insiders unlikely to sanction such actions without the approval of their boss, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Despite an almost universal rejection of the Saudi account on social media, some of Riyadh's allies have chosen to publically accept this story.

Here is where countries stand on the Saudi narrative:

Germany

Merkel joined a howl of condemnations of the Saudi story.

"The horrific events in Saudi Arabia still haven't been cleared up and of course we demand that they be cleared up," the Germany chancellor said.

Later Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued another statement on the killing.

"Those responsible must answer for their actions", they said in a joint statement.


"We expect transparency from Saudi Arabia on the circumstances of his death. Available reports on what happened in the Istanbul consulate are insufficient."

Maas also suggested that Germany could freeze arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia over the incident. Germany last month approved $480 million in arms sales to Riyadh.

European Union

The European Union (EU) appeared to hold a similarly sceptical view of the Saudi account.

The EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini described Khashoggi's death as "deeply troubling" and issued a statement on Saturday over the Saudi investigation.

"The European Union - like its partners - insists on the need for continued thorough, credible and transparent investigation, shedding proper clarity on the circumstances of the killing and ensuring full accountability of all those responsible for it."

France

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an "exhaustive and diligent investigation" and also hinted that the Saudi narrative left more questions than answers.

"Many questions remain... unanswered. They require an exhaustive and diligent investigation to establish exactly who was responsible and ensure that those guilty of the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi answer for their actions," he said in a statement.

"These expectations are all the stronger as our two countries are linked by a strategic partnership that involves frankness... and transparency."

France's arms sales to the Middle East doubled in 2017, with most weapons going to Saudi Arabia and it regional allies - Egypt and the UAE - as well as Qatar. 

Sales to Middle East militaries stood at around $4.5 billion for that year, and Paris retains a strong military and trading partnership with Riyadh.

UK

Another close ally of Saudi Arabia, the UK, has been forced, in recent days, to take steps to underline their disapproval of Saudi Arabia's handling of the Khashoggi case.

The UK's foreign office called the killing of Khashoggi "a terrible act" on Saturday, and said it was considering its "next steps" following the Saudi announcement.

"We send our condolences to Jamal Khashoggi's family after this confirmation of his death. We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps. As the foreign secretary has said, this was a terrible act and those responsible must be held to account," the foreign office said in a statement.

Khashoggi was a former resident in London, and had many friends in the country who called for the UK to take a tough stance against the Saudi Arabia.

As a key arms exporter to Saudi Arabia, there is growing pressure on the Conservative government to suspend weapons sales to Riyadh over the probable killing of Khashoggi.


Turkey

Turkey has issued probably the strongest threat to Saudi Arabia over its claims that Khashoggi died during a melee in the consulate. Police are currently investigating the incident and searching Turkey for Khashoggi's body.

Turkish intelligence sources have also leaked gruesome information of the killing to press, with some anonymous agents claiming Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered the killing.

Turkish ministers have been more reserved about the case over the past two weeks, but on Saturday the ruling party warned it would not allow a "cover up" of Khashoggi's killing.
 
"Turkey will never allow a cover-up," a spokesperson from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) said.

More alarming for Riyadh, the party also warned it would reveal "the truth" of Khashoggi's killing.

"Turkey will reveal whatever had happened," said Omer Celik of the AKP said, according to Anadolu.

"Nobody should ever doubt about it. We are not accusing anyone in advance but we don't accept anything to remain covered [up]."

Turkey has an uneasy relationship with Saudi Arabia, with some analysts believing that Ankara has designs on challenging Saudi-UAE domination of the region.

Ankara became an ally of Qatar during the Saudi-UAE-Egypt-Bahrain one-year blockade on the Gulf state.

US

The US has become a key party in the episode, with President Donald Trump dispatching his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to Riyadh and Ankara following the incident.

Khashoggi was a resident in the US at the time he died and was a writer for the Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia is a key friend of the US, while Turkey is also a NATO ally. 

Trump has said he does not want to jeapordise a huge $110 billion arms sale to Riyadh over the incident. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner - who is also the president's senior adviser - are also believed to be very close to Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump promoted the idea of "rogue agents" carrying out the killing earlier this week, which would deflect blame from Mohammed bin Salman.

Shortly after the announcement by Riyadh that the crown prince had "nothing to do" with the death of Khashoggi, Trump said he found the Saudi story "credible".

"It's early, we haven't finished our review or investigation."

It is also believed the president will ignore US intelligence reports on the incident and accept the Saudi account, but on Saturday he did mention possible sanctions. These would likely target the men already named as culprits by Saudi Arabia, rather than Riyadh's actual rulers.

Many senators have said they do not believe the Saudi account and will challenge Trump's acceptance of the account.

UAE

Saudi Arabia's closest ally in the region has "hailed" Riyadh's announcement about Khashoggi's death, after voicing support for Riyadh following attacks in media. 

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah al-Nahyan praised the "directives and decisions of Saudi King Salman on the issue of Khashoggi", in a statement.

A day earlier, Anwar Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs, echoed previous Saudi warnings against action against Riyadh.

He said doing so could tank global economies and lead to instability in the region.

Other Arab states

Bahrain hailed the Saudi announcement as "attaining justice and reveal the truth in the utmost impartiality and objective".

Meanwhile, another key ally, Egypt - which has recieved strong financial support from Riyadh - also said it proves "the kingdom's keenness and commitment to reach the truth". 

Jordan

The kingdom has also backed Saudi Arabia over the incident saying Riyadh's actions "were necessary in clarifying the full truth about the circumstances of this issue, and the achievement of a speedy justice and accountability of those involved", according to Saudi state news.

The Cairo-based Arab League - which is considered within the Saudi-UAE orbit - also "welcomed" the moves by Riyadh.

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