Emmanuel Macron piles pressure on Theresa May with call for international investigation into Khashoggi killing

PM delivers what is claimed as 'robust' message to de facto ruler over journalist's killing

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor, in Buenos Aires
Friday 30 November 2018 20:03 GMT
Emmanuel Macron and Mohammed Bin Salman meet at G20 in Argentina

Emmanuel Macron has piled pressure on Theresa May to fight harder for the truth behind the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, by demanding an international investigation.

The French president’s call – as he confronted Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit – appeared to blindside No 10, ahead of the prime minister’s private meeting with the prince.

Ms May subsequently delivered what aides described as a "robust" message over Khashoggi's death, and the need for Riyadh to engage in talks in Stockholm next week on ending the war in Yemen.

However, she is relying on the Saudis to carry out their own investigation, despite US intelligence agencies concluding Mr bin Salman personally ordered the journalist's brutal murder in the Saudi consulate in Turkey on 2 October.

Following the meeting, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister stressed the importance of ensuring that those responsible for the appalling murder of Jamal Khashoggi are held to account, and that Saudi Arabia takes action to build confidence that such a deplorable incident could not happen again.

"Noting the steps taken by the Saudi investigation since the Foreign Secretary had met with the crown prince and King Salman on November 12, she encouraged the crown prince to ensure that Saudi Arabia co-operated fully with the Turkish authorities and worked to bring both investigations to an acceptable close.

"To ensure full accountability, there needed to be full transparency about exactly what had happened and who was responsible, in line with the commitments made by King Salman when she spoke to him on October 24."

On Yemen, the spokesman said that Mrs May set out the "urgent need" to bring an end to the conflict and bring relief to millions threatened by famine.

An estimated 85,000 children under the age of five have died from extreme hunger or disease in a war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed rebels. Up to 14 million people are at risk of death from starvation.

"The Prime Minister stressed that the humanitarian situation remained dire and reaffirmed UK commitment to making progress on improving the situation, including through a UN security council resolution," the spokesman said.

"The Prime Minister reiterated UK support for Saudi Arabia's security, including the very real threats posed by Iranian interference in Yemen."

In Buenos Aires, Mr Macron had earlier raised the stakes by saying the EU would insist on international experts being part of the investigation into Khashoggi's murder.

In an extraordinary public exchange with Mr bin Salman, the crown prince was heard to say “Don't worry”, to which the French president responded “I am worried”.

Later, the widely-shared clip captured Mr Macron saying: “You never listen to me" and bin Salman replying: “I will listen, of course.”. It concluded with Mr Macron saying: “I am a man of my word.”

Mr Khashoggi, a one-time Saudi royal insider turned fierce critic, was killed by lethal injection and dismembered by a group of Saudi men sent from the kingdom.

Saudi officials deny Mr Bin Salman ordered the murder.

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