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24 Oct, 2018 16:18

Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi killing case ‘painful’ in first remarks since admitting death

Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi killing case ‘painful’ in first remarks since admitting death

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged that “justice will prevail” in the case involving the death of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier in October.

Speaking during a panel at the Future Investment Initiative (FII), Saudi Arabia’s international investment forum, the crown prince called the case “painful”. Mohammed bin Salman, also called MBS, has been accused by many people of ordering the killing of Khashoggi, his self-exiled critic.

“The incident that happened is very painful, for all Saudis... The incident is not justifiable,” MBS said.

During his first remarks since Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi indeed was killed at the consulate on October 2, MBS said Saudi Arabia and Turkey will work together “to reach results” in the investigation.

Riyadh insists that the prominent journalist was killed accidentally in a brawl, which started amid an unauthorized operation by the Saudi intelligence. It said 14 people have been arrested in the probe so far.

Earlier Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death appeared to be premeditated, but stopped short of accusing MBS of orchestrating an assassination. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are regional “frenemies”, competing for influence in the Middle East while sharing some interests.

The scandal over Khashoggi’s death undermined Saudi Arabia’s effort to draw international investment, with many prominent businessmen and media outlets dropping out of this year’s FII gathering in protest. Nevertheless contracts worth some $50 billion were signed on the first day of the event.

The US government remains on shaky ground over the death too. Saudi Arabia is a key regional ally and a major buyer of American weapons, which prompted the Trump administration to avoid outright criticism of Riyadh over Khashoggi’s killing. While some US lawmakers campaigned for imposing economic sanctions and withdrawing military support for the Saudi-led coalition’s brutal war in Yemen, the White House remained non-committed.

But rhetoric from Washington has become harsher after the Saudis acknowledged the death after two weeks of denying it. “Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him,” President Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal this week. He added he wanted to believe that MBS was not responsible for the killing.

Khashoggi lived as a US resident and was a regular columnist for the Washington Post. While he supported MBS’ stated desire to reform Saudi Arabia by fighting corruption in the royal family and restricting the influence of the clergy, he criticized the crown prince for rooting out dissenting voices, including himself.

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