Jamal Khashoggi: UK, France and Germany ‘urgently’ demand clarification of ‘exactly what happened’ in Saudi consulate

Three nations condemn death of dissident journalist ‘in the strongest possible terms’ in joint statement

Tom Barnes,Chris Baynes
Sunday 21 October 2018 16:51 BST
Trump says he is not satisfied with Saudi account of journalist Jamal Khasoggi's death

Britain, France and Germany have said “nothing can justify” the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate, as the nations demanded “credible facts” over his death.

A joint statement issued by UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and his counterparts in Berlin and Paris, Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian, condemned the alleged murder “in the strongest possible terms”.

They said there was an “urgent need for clarification on exactly what happened” when Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime, entered the consulate in Turkey on 2 October.

“Defending freedom of expression and a free press are key priorities for Germany, the United Kingdom and France‎,” the statement added.

“The threatening, attacking or killing of journalists, under any circumstances, is unacceptable and of utmost concern to our three nations.

“Our thoughts ‎are today ‎with Mr Khashoggi’s family, his fiancée, and his friends – who have worried about him for weeks, and to whom we extend our most heartfelt condolences.”

The three nations called for the truth to be established in a “comprehensive, transparent and credible manner,” following the release of a statement from Saudi officials late on Saturday, claiming Khashoggi died in a “fist-fight”.

That version of events has been widely disputed and Turkish officials investigating the case suspect the Washington Post reporter was tortured and murdered by a “hit squad” before his body was chopped up and disposed of.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister appeared to contradict the regime’s official version of events on Sunday, telling Fox News the government did not know exactly how Khashoggi died or where his remains were.

“He was killed in the consulate. We don’t know in terms of details how. We don’t know where the body is,” said Adel Al-Jubeir, the first senior Saudi official to speak on the record since the regime admitted Khashoggi was dead.

He described the journalist’s death as a “huge and grave mistake” and promised his family those responsible would be punished.

Senior European politicians had already called on Saudi Arabia over the weekend to provide answers on how Khashoggi died inside the consulate.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, on Sunday, the UK’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said the Saudi explanation of the killing was not credible, but insisted that Britain would not sever ties with the kingdom over the case.

Angela Merkel said Germany would halt arm exports to Saudi Arabia until Khashoggi’s death has been explained and his killers have faced justice.

Speaking during a regional election campaign rally, the chancellor said: “There is an urgent need to clarify what happened – we are far from this having been cleared up and those responsible held to account. As far as arms exports are concerned, those can’t take place in the current circumstances.”

The European Union has called for “proper clarity on the circumstances of the killing and ensuring full accountability of all those responsible for it.”

US president Donald Trump, who previously indicated he believed the Saudi version of events – even making the baseless claim Khashoggi had been targeted by “rogue killers” - also joined calls from Western leaders for answers.

Mr Trump said he was “not satisfied” with the Saudi explanation, adding he intended to seek talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader.

“We’d like to find out where it is and what happened... And I think we’re inching our way there,” he said.

A number of US senators, including senior Republicans, have directly accused the crown prince of ordering the killing and called for the White House to consider sanctions against the Saudis.

“Do I think he did it? Yes, I think he did it,” said leading Republican Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an interview with CNN.

Senator Dick Durbin, a senior Democrat, urged Mr Trump to expel the Saudi ambassador and ask allies to follow suit.

“The crown prince has his fingerprints all over this and the fact that he is heading up the investigation makes it totally incredible,” he told NBC.

CCTV footage shows Jamal Khashoggi entering Saudi embassy in Istanbul

Other senators called to the US to halt arms sales to the Saudis.

US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin dismissed talk of potential sanctions against the Saudis as “premature”.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday, Mr Mnuchin said the regime’s admission that Khashoggi had been killed at the consulate was “a good first step but not enough”.

“It would be premature to comment on sanctions and premature to comment on really any issues until we get further down the investigation and get to the bottom of what occurred,” he added.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Ergodan, has said he will announce the outcome of Ankara’s investigation into the death “in detail” on Tuesday.

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