Pompeo: Saudi Arabia must hold Jamal Khashoggi's killers accountable

  14 January 2019    Read: 1214
Pompeo: Saudi Arabia must hold Jamal Khashoggi

The Trump administration expects Saudi Arabia to hold “every single person” responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggiaccountable, the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said after talks with senior Saudi officials.

Speaking to reporters at the end of a trip to Riyadh, Pompeo said he had raised the Khashoggi case in his meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as other human rights concerns and the fate of women’s rights activists who have been detained in the kingdom.

“We spoke about human rights issues here in Saudi Arabia, women activists,” he said. “We spoke about the accountability and the expectations that we have. The Saudis are friends and when friends have conversations you tell them what your expectations are.

“Our expectations have been clear from early on: every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to held accountable,” Pompeo said. He said the Saudis understood and had reiterated pledges to pursue the case wherever it leads. He would not comment on the US intelligence finding that the crown prince may have ordered the killing.

The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense following Khashoggi’s brutal killing and dismemberment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. Members of Prince Mohammed’s entourage have been implicated in the killing and US politicians have demanded America pull back its support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

On the detained women rights activists, Pompeo said the Saudis had promised that the “lawful judicial process would take place and they would do so quickly and that they would continue down that path”.

“They understand the concerns that some have and they are going to do their best to communicate as appropriate,” he said.

Pompeo travelled to Saudi Arabia as part of a broader Middle East tour that has already taken him to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. He was to depart from the kingdom for Oman shortly after his meetings in Riyadh but cancelled plans to wrap up the trip in Kuwait on Tuesday, due to a death in his family.

At each stop, Pompeo has sought to reassure Arab leaders that Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria does not mean Washington is abandoning the Middle East or the fight against Islamic State.

Pompeo said he believed he had been successful in explaining Trump’s position despite a lack of detail on exactly how and when the withdrawal would take place and differences with Turkey over the fate of US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters after American forces leave.

He also tried to impress upon leaders the importance of a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished country, and the need to step up efforts to counter Iran’s increasing assertiveness in the region, manifested by its support for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah movement, Syria’s government of President Assad, Shia militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In Riyadh, Pompeo lamented that the Houthis were not living up to pledges they made at UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden. “We need both sides to honour those commitments and to date the Iranian-backed Houthis have chosen not to do that,” he said.

Pompeo also pressed the Saudis on bringing an end to the near two-year-old dispute with its Gulf neighbour Qatar, which has badly hindered US efforts to create a united Arab military alliance to counter Iran.

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