October 16, 2018 – US State Secretary Mike Pompeo has met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to discuss the mysterious disappearance of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as both sides face international pressure over the fate of the US-based commentator who is believed to have been murdered at the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday and sat down with the king for a short talk before attending a dinner meeting with his son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“Thank you for accepting my visit on behalf of President [Donald] Trump,” Pompeo said upon meeting the king. The details of the meeting were not available immediately.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo “thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation.”
The top diplomat also thanked the monarch “for Saudi Arabia’s strong partnership with the United States,” Nauert added.
Crown Prince hails US ties
Upon welcoming Pompeo, bin Slaman, the kingdom’s putative king, hailed “strong” ties with Washington.
“We are strong and old allies so we face our challenges together,” he said.
“Absolutely,” responded Pompeo.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are jointly investigating the issue but Turkish officials have complained about reluctance on Riyadh’s side.
Turkish investigators were finally allowed into the consulate on Monday, roughly two weeks after Khashoggi was last seen entering the complex on October 2.
Pompeo’s complimentary tone with the Saudi king further confirms the Trump administration’s lack of enthusiasm to get to the bottom of issue.
Many American lawmakers have so far called on the White House to use its economic and political means to pressure Riyadh over the issue.
In response, Trump has pledged to “punish” Saudi Arabia if it turns out that Khashoggi was indeed murdered at the consulate. But there is a catch.
The American head of state has also made it clear that whatever those punishments are, they would not endanger ties with Riyadh, particularly the $110 billion weapons deal that he signed with the kingdom during his maiden foreign visit last year.
Pompeo’s visit came at Trump’s request, who talked to King Salman over the phone on Monday. Trump said Salman had “firmly denied any knowledge of” Khashoggi’s fate.
The Washington Post, to which Khashoggi was a contributor, revealed days ago that according to US intelligence intercepts bin Salman had personally ordered an “operation” on him.
Khashoggi was a close friend to the young prince before turning against him.
UN demands ‘transparent’ probe
Earlier on Tuesday, the office of Michelle Bachelet, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that she wanted Saudi officials to “reveal everything they know” about the incident.
“Under international law, both a forced disappearance and an extra-judicial killing are very serious crimes, and immunity should not be used to impede investigations into what happened and who is responsible,” Bachelet said.
“Two weeks is a very long time for the probable scene of a crime not to have been subjected to a full forensic investigation,” she added.
Noting there was clear evidence proving that Khashoggi had entered the Saudi mission, she said, “the onus is on the Saudi authorities to reveal what happened to him from that point onwards.”
Besides the UN, major European countries such as Germany, France and the UK have also called for clarity from Riyadh.