Khashoggi killing undermines stability in the Middle East, warns US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis

Warning comes as Saudi foreign minister describes global outcry over murder as ‘hysterical’

Adam Forrest
Saturday 27 October 2018 19:28
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Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman says Khashoggi killing was 'heinous crime'

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi threatened the stability of alliances in the Middle East, as the kingdom’s foreign minister claimed the ongoing global outcry had become “hysterical”.

Speaking at a conference in Bahrain on Saturday, Mr Mattis said Washington would take “additional measures” against those found responsible.

He also said no nation should be able to flout “international norms and the rule of law”.

His comments came as Saudi Arabia desperately tries to contain the diplomatic fall-out from the brutal murder of the reporter at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the ongoing global outcry had become “hysterical”.

Speaking at the same conference as Mr Mattis, the senior diplomat said: “This issue has become fairly hysterical. I think people have assigned blame on Saudi Arabia with such certainty before the investigation is complete.”

Earlier this week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced moves against 21 Saudis in response to the columnist’s death, revoking existing visas or making them ineligible for visas.

President Donald Trump has said he wants to get to the bottom of the case, but has continued to highlight Saudi Arabia’s role as an ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of US arms.

Mr Mattis made clear the US took the killing seriously, but did not mention any specific “measures” under consideration as punishment.

“With our collective interests in peace and unwavering respect for human rights in mind, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly,” he said.

He added that Mr Pompeo ”will be taking additional measures as the situation is clarified”.

The US defence secretary did not mention Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who has called the killing “a heinous crime” – by name in his speech. The former Marine Corps general also suggested military ties between Washington and Riyadh would not change.

Mr Mattis said the US remained supportive of the Saudis “right to defend themselves against Iranian-supplied Houthi attacks” in Yemen.

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He said “our respect for the Saudi people is undiminished” but added that respect “must come with transparency and trust”.

Earlier this week Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said Mr Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, contradicting a previous official statement that it happened accidentally during a tussle in the consulate in Istanbul.

Turkey alleges a 15-member hit squad was sent to Istanbul to kill the journalist, an outspoken critic of Prince Mohammed in regular columns for The Washington Post.

Riyadh has arrested 18 people as part of its investigation into the case. Turkey alleges those include the 15 that flew in hours before the killing and carried it out.

Additional reporting by agencies

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