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Business as usual: US Treasury Secretary meets with Saudi Crown Prince amid Khashoggi outrage

Business as usual: US Treasury Secretary meets with Saudi Crown Prince amid Khashoggi outrage
As pressure mounts on US President Donald Trump to punish Riyadh over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday.

A photo of Mnuchin and bin Salman together was posted by the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Twitter. During their meeting in Riyadh, the Crown Prince stressed "the importance of Saudi-US strategic partnership, where it holds an important role in the future in line with the Kingdom's #Vision2030," the ministry stated.

Saudi Vision 2030 is a long-term development plan, designed to reduce the Kingdom's dependence on oil revenues and diversify its fossil-fuel-driven economy.

The meeting, which had not been specifically announced as part of Mnuchin's six-country Middle East trip, comes as Trump refuses to halt $450 billion in arms sales to Riyadh despite facing pressure from both sides of the aisle at home. Mnuchin earlier joined a host of high-profile attendees who announced they were pulling out of an upcoming major investment conference hosted by the Saudis.

The calls for the president to scrap the lucrative deals have become more vocal since the Saudi government admitted on Saturday that the Washington Post columnist had died in the consulate. However, it is still unclear what led to the journalist's death, as Riyadh has been changing its own account of events.

Mnuchin, who earlier confirmed his visit to Riyadh as part of the Middle East tour, has neither issued any comment on his talks with bin Salman, nor released a photo of the meeting.

The Washington Post's correspondent Damian Paletta reported, citing Mnuchin's spokesman, that the two also touched upon the Khashoggi murder, of which there is no mention in the Saudi statement. 

The news of Mnuchin meeting the Crown Prince in Riyadh has sparked a fresh wave of outrage among lawmakers and observers.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called the meeting "a sad day for America" and a "seeming sell out."

"Are we now a pawn of Saudi propaganda?" he tweeted.

Meanwhile, US' European allies have urged a transparent investigation into the circumstances of the journalist's death, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that as long as the case is shrouded in secrecy, Germany will not export any arms to Saudi Arabia. So far, Trump has been reluctant to follow her lead, arguing that halting Saudi arms exports will hurt the US economy. 

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