Saudi regime will face ‘severe’ consequences if behind Khashoggi disappearance

Trump admits it ‘certainly looks’ as if journalist is dead as diplomats pull out of summit

US president Donald Trump has said it "certainly looks" as if Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and pledged "severe" consequences if Saudi royals are responsible.

Mr Trump did not say what he based his conclusion on, but he said the consequences for the Saudis “will have to be very severe” if they were found to have killed him.

Mr Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland he was waiting for details from “about three different investigations so we can get to the bottom of” Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul more than two weeks ago. Turkish authorities say he was killed and dismembered. The Saudis have denied involvement.


Earlier on Thursday, the White House said it would give Saudi authorities "a few more days" to investigate the disappearance of the dissident journalist.

US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin pulled out of next week's investor forum in Riyadh, following a meeting with Mr Trump and secretary of state Mike Pompeo at the White House.

Mr Pompeo briefed Mr Trump and senior officials about his meetings with Saudi and Turkish leaders in recent days over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Mr Pompeo was dispatched by Mr Trump on Monday to the region amid the deepening diplomatic crisis. Addressing reporters after his meeting with the president, Mr Pompeo said he had told the Saudis that a quick but thorough report was needed.

“We made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr Khashoggi very seriously,” he said, adding “they also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all the facts surrounding Mr Khashoggi and that they will do so in a timely fashion”.

He said he had been assured by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their meeting in Ankara on Wednesday that Turkey would share the results of their investigation with Saudi Arabia. "So we do believe that between these two efforts, a complete picture will emerge of what actually transpired here. And we're working towards that, we're looking forward to that."

He declined to speculate about the Khashoggi’s fate. “There are lots of stories out there about what happened, and I’m going to allow the process to move forward and allow the facts to unfold, and as they unfold we will make a determination for ourselves about what happened there, based on the facts that are presented.”

Conference withdrawals

Referring to his meeting with president and secretary of state, Mr Mnuchin wrote on Twitter that “ we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia.”

In doing so he became the latest western official to pull out of the high-profile investment conference in Riyadh later this month, joining a list of international officials and business executives to boycott the event. Earlier on Thursday, three senior European ministers – French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, British trade minister Liam Fox and Dutch finance minister Wopka Hoekstra – said they were pulling out, too.

As the Trump administration granted Saudi Arabia more time to come up with an explanation for the disappearance of the US resident pressure continued to build in Congress for a more robust response from Washington.

Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida wrote in a tweet shortly after Mr Pompeo's remarks: "Must not accept a strategic alliance with #SaudiArabia which requires our silence when they butcher a political critic." He called for everyone responsible to be held accountable and for the US to "be clear on what is expected moving forward if they want to preserve our alliance".

In a joint statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders urged Turkey to request the United Nations to investigate the possible extrajudicial execution of Khashoggi.

"UN involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh," said the CPJ's Robert Mahoney.

He noted that Saudi authorities had escalated their crackdown on dissenting voices in the country since Mohammad bin Salman became crown prince in June 2017, and had arrested journalists who reported on corruption, human rights and other sensitive issues. – Additional reporting: AP

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent