Saudis under pressure over disappearance of journalist

26th Oct 2018
Saudis under pressure over disappearance of journalist

Jamal Khashoggi (Photo: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy/Creative Commons)

Hamed Chapman

In his usual contradicting manner, US President, Donald Trump, threatened “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia was guilty of state-sponsored murder following the disappearance of its former advisor Jamal Khashoggi before remembering how important the country’s arms exports were to the Kingdom.

The Kingdom was “spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,” he said before despatching US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to have crisis talks with King Salman and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Khashoggi, who was living in self-exile and working for the Washington Post, was reportedly killed minutes after he arrived at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up marriage paperwork on October 2, according to claims that there were audio recordings that prove he was beaten and drugged before being murdered and dismembered.

Pompeo met the Turkish President as well as Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, within the confines of Ankara’s Esenboga airport on October 17, a day after Erdoğan had said police had found freshly painted walls and “toxic” substances during a search of the consulate, where Khashoggi was last seen alive two weeks earlier.

Turkish media said that the US Secretary of State was expected to bring answers with him from Riyadh, where he had also met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Pompeo had described the visit as “highly successful” and said the Saudis had promised to carry out a “thorough, complete and transparent investigation”.

Before dispatching Pompeo, Trump appeared to be trying to find a scapegoat for the Saudis by suggesting that “rogue killers” may have murdered Khashoggi, who had previously worked as a media aide to Prince Turki Al Faisal when he was Ambassador to the United States.

Several high-profile speakers and sponsors have pulled out of the Future Investment Initiative (FFI) conference in Riyadh amid outrage over the disappearance of Khashoggi.

More than 10 of the largest and most prominent attendees have said they will no longer go to the summit following the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi dissident Khashoggi.

The withdrawals from the event, dubbed “Davos in the Desert”, range from tech companies Google and Uber to banking giants JP Morgan Chase, Societe Generale,  Credit Suisse, and HSBC, car manufacturing giant Ford to media organisations such as CNN, The New York Times and Financial Times.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, added her name to a growing number of leaders to withdraw from the conference.

Virgin Group Chairman, Richard Branson said he would suspend working with the Kingdom in the wake of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

UK International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox was forced to pull out of the conference on October 18 after Labour hit at him for not withdrawing.

Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, told City A.M. the UK must show it acts ethically.

He criticised Fox, who has so far not said whether he will join business leaders pulling out of FII.

“The UK should signal that it operates to the highest ethical standards. Sadly Liam Fox appears to be vacillating on the sidelines once again, sacrificing principles and human rights in favour of doing business with this regime,” Gardiner said.

The Government said it will not allow its commercial relationship with the Saudis to get in the way of speaking “frankly and openly” about the Gulf nation’s abuses.

“We will not pursue trade to the exclusion of human rights. They can and should be complementary,” a Government spokesperson said.

 

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