By Elton Gomes
Saudi Arabia on Sunday warned to retaliate against threats over last week’s disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia’s comments come as European leaders increased pressure on the Gulf nation, while two more US executives cancelled plans to attend an investor conference in Saudi.
Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, was critical of Riyadh’s policies. Khashoggi disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities believe that he was murdered and that his body was removed. But Saudi Arabia denies such a statement.
The journalist’s death has ruffled relations between the US and the Gulf. US President Donald Trump has threatened Saudi Arabia if it is proved that Khashoggi was killed in the Istanbul consulate.
What has Trump said?
Trump has promised “severe punishment” if it is proved that Saudi’s regime is involved in Khashoggi’s death. Trump said the fact that Khashoggi was a reporter made the case “really terrible and disgusting”.
The US president was speaking to CBS in an interview that would be broadcast on 60 Minutes on Sunday. Trump repeatedly said that he was not sure as what had happened in Istanbul and referred questions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who offered diplomatic deflections.
Trump indicated that he had not heard the audio and video recordings that reportedly records Khashoggi’s death, but said he expected he would “soon” hear them. He said that he would speak to Saudi King Salman “today or tomorrow”.
Without giving specific details, Trump further said “There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we’ll do them,” the Guardian reported.
Saudi Arabia threatens to retaliate
Responding to Trump’s statements, Saudi Arabia said it will retaliate if any sanctions are imposed over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. Riyadh vowed that it will fight back in case any action is taken.
“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations,” Riyadh said. “The kingdom also affirms that if it is [targeted by] any action, it will respond with greater action,” the Guardian reported.
The statement also highlighted the fact that the oil-rich kingdom “plays an effective and vital role in the world economy”. Saudi’s foreign ministry issued several tweets rejecting the accusations as “attempts to undermine” Saudi Arabia, as reported by the Guardian.
Turkey given permission to search Saudi consulate
Recent reports on Monday mentioned that Saudi Arabia has allowed Turkey to search its Istanbul consulate, a Turkish diplomatic source told CNN.
Saudi authorities have asserted that Khashoggi left the consulate the same afternoon, but have not provided any evidence of their statement. Saudi officials initially granted permission for the consulate to be searched last week, but later asked for a delay.
Turkish officials also want to search the nearby consul general’s residence and have repeatedly alleged that the Saudis have not cooperated with their investigation.
King Salman speaks with Turkish President Recep Erdogan
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman on Sunday discussed over case of Khashoggi on the phone. Erdogan and Salman discussed “the issue of shedding light on the case of Jamal Khashoggi” and emphasised the “importance of creating a joint working group within the framework of the investigation,” a Turkish presidential source told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Saudi’s foreign ministry said that King phoned Erdogan “to thank the president for welcoming the kingdom’s proposal to form a joint working group to discuss the disappearance of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi.”
Salman highlighted the importance of the Turkey-Saudi relationship and said no one should be able to “undermine the strength of this relationship,” as per the AFP report.
Who was Jamal Khashoggi?
Khashoggi was a prominent columnist at the Washington Post. He was in self-imposed exile from Saudi Arabia and was a permanent resident of the United States. He was a critic of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman and often differed with Saudi’s policies on the country’s war in Yemen, its approach to Iran, its crackdown on critics, and its deep opposition to political Islamists.
Turkish officials have claimed that Khashoggi was assassinated. They also claim to have audio and video recordings allegedly proving that Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents.
Turkish President Erdogan has demanded an explanation from the Saudis. Some Turkish officials have even claimed that 15 agents killed Khashoggi in Instanbul. It is claimed that these agents then used a bone saw to dismember his body in order to remove it without being detected.
Reactions over his death
The incident has caused an uproar. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has demanded that the Trump administration undertake its own probe of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Some others are calling for sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the allegations are true.
In addition, major business leaders are pulling out from an investment conference called “Davos in the Desert” slated to be hosted later in October by Saudi Arabia.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius