Germany and France yesterday called Saudi Arabia’s explanation of how Jamal Khashoggi died in Istanbul incomplete, going further than US President Donald Trump in pressing the kingdom over the journalist’s disappearance and death.
Saudi Arabia said early yesterday that Khashoggi, a critic of the country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, had died in a fight inside its consulate in the Turkish city.
Riyadh provided no evidence to support its account, which marked a reversal of an initial statement that Khashoggi had left the consulate the same day he entered on October 2 to get documents for his upcoming marriage.
Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed inside the consulate by a team of Saudi agents and his body cut up.
While Middle Eastern allies closed ranks around the kingdom, Western reaction to the Saudi narrative varied.
US President Donald Trump said it was credible.
By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a joint statement with her foreign minister, said the Saudi account was not enough.
“We expect transparency from Saudi Arabia about the circumstances of his death. The information available about events in the Istanbul consulate is inadequate,” they said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called into question the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an in-depth investigation of the Khashoggi case. “The confirmation of Mr Jamal Khashoggi’s death is a first step toward the establishment of the truth.
However, many questions remain unanswered,” he said in a statement.
The circumstances of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death are deeply troubling, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said yesterday, calling for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation.
“The emerging circumstances of Jamal Khashoggi’s death are deeply troubling, including the shocking violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations...,” Mogherini said in a statement.
“Therefore 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,” she said.
The Saudi statement made no mention of what had become of body of Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia had until now strenuously denied that Khashoggi had died in the consulate.
Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted in Arabic: “They have taken your body from this world, but your beautiful smile will stay in my world forever.”
Some US lawmakers were unconvinced by the Saudi account.
“To say that I am sceptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr Khashoggi is an understatement,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said.
Another Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, called for an investigation and sanctions imposed against those responsible.
Turkish sources say the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate.
Before the Saudi announcements, Trump had said he might consider sanctions against the kingdom.
For other Western allies, a main question will be whether they believe Prince Mohamed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability.
King Salman had handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to his son.
Britain said it was considering its next steps, Awhile Australia said it had pulled out of a planned investment summit in Saudi Arabia in protest at the killing.
Spain said it was dismayed by information from Riyadh.
Amnesty International said the Saudi explanation appeared to be a whitewash of “an appalling assassination.”
The Saudi findings “marks an abysmal new low to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record,” its Middle East director said.
The spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK Party said it would not allow a “cover up”.
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