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US Imposes Saudi Sanctions Over Khashoggi Murder

ISTANBUL – The US State Department is to revoke visas or make them unobtainable for 21 Saudis following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. President Donald Trump said the Saudis staged the “worst cover-up ever.” DW reported Wednesday.
According to Washington Post, he said that Saudi officials had engaged in the “worst cover up ever” after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this month, as the administration took its first concrete step to penalize Saudi Arabia, revoking visas for its agents implicated in the killing.
He further described the cover-up by Saudi Arabia of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 as “a total fiasco.”
That initial penalty was modest, since 18 of the 21 Saudi suspects were already under arrest, and Trump said he would “leave it up to Congress” to determine how best to punish the kingdom for the killing inside its Istanbul consulate.
Earlier Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had dismissed Saudi attempts to blame Khashoggi’s death on rogue operatives. He urged Riyadh to search “from top to bottom” to find those responsible.
Trump told reporters: “There should have never been an execution or a cover-up, because it should have never happened.”
“Bad deal, should have never been thought of,” Trump said at the White House on Tuesday. “Somebody really messed up. And they had the worst cover-up ever.”
Neither Trump nor Erdogan gave their views on who was ultimately responsible for the killing although Trump did note in his comments to reporters: “the prince is running things over there” in Riyadh.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US had identified some individuals in the Saudi government and security officials they believed were involved. Appropriate action — including revoking visas for some, and making others ineligible should they apply for a visa. Most of the 21 people on the US list have US visas, an official told Reuters.
“We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence,” Pompeo said. “Neither the President nor I am happy with this situation.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced earlier this week that arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be put on hold following the Khashoggi killing. The much-vaunted Saudi investment conference “Davos in the Desert” has been hit by numerous cancellations, including by Germany’s Siemens, following the killing.
Pompeo emphasized, as Trump had done before him, the importance of the US-Saudi relationship. However, he also said: “These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States.”
It is believed that Turkey has audio of the events inside the consulate, which it is yet to release. Security sources in Ankara say when Khashoggi entered the building in Istanbul he was seized by 15 Saudi intelligence operatives who had flown in on two jets just a few hours before.
On the other hand, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Tuesday that the kingdom was committed to a “comprehensive investigation” into the journalist’s death and had dispatched a team to Turkey.
Speaking in Indonesia on Tuesday, Jubeir said the Saudi investigators had “uncovered evidence of a murder.” He also vowed to put mechanisms in place that would prevent similar incidents in the future, without expanding upon what those would be.
Khashoggi’s death has tarnished the global reputation of the crown prince, who has eased social restrictions at home while pursuing an unrelenting crackdown on rivals and critics, imprisoning hundreds. Mohammed has also tried to lure exiled dissidents such as Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia, back to Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi’s friends and other exiles have said.
As Saudi Arabia on Tuesday opened its landmark business conference — part of the crown prince’s plan to diversify the economy and reduce reliance on oil revenue — the country’s Foreign Ministry released video of him inside a crowd of attendees, posing for a selfie.
Despite the pull-out of several high-profile participants, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the event was packed with people from across the Middle East, as well as from China, India and the United States.
Khashoggi’s death was acknowledged at the beginning of the conference by a panel moderator, Lubna Olayan, a prominent Saudi business leader who said she had known the journalist.
“I want to tell all our foreign guests, for whose presence with us this morning we are very grateful, that the terrible acts reported in recent weeks are alien to our culture and our DNA,” she said.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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