The Latest: Germany reassessing arms sales to Saudi Arabia
ISTANBUL (AP) — The Latest on the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month (all times local):
Germany’s foreign minister is calling into question the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, after the kingdom acknowledged that writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate.
Heiko Maas told German public broadcaster ARD on Saturday that “as long as these investigations continue, as long as we don’t know what happened there, there’s no basis for reaching positive decisions on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.”
Maas spoke after he and Chancellor Angela Merkel released a joint statement calling on Saudi Arabia to hold to account those responsible for the Washington Post columnist’s death.
Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest buyers of German arms.
Asked whether German companies should decline attending a business conference in Saudi Arabia next week, Maas said he “certainly wouldn’t” be attending any events in Riyadh at the moment.
The German government is condemning the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi and calling on Saudi Arabia to hold those responsible to account.
In a joint statement Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said they were “greatly saddened” by the confirmation that the Washington Post columnist was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
Both said they “condemned the crime in the sharpest possible manner,” adding that they expected “transparency from Saudi Arabia about the circumstances of (Khashoggi’s) death and the background.”
Merkel and Maas said that “those responsible must be held to account.” They said “the information provided about the sequence of events in the consulate in Istanbul isn’t sufficient.”
They also expressed their condolences to Khashoggi’s family and friends, “whose fears have now been sadly proven true.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is demanding further clarity over the death of writer Jamal Khashoggi, after Saudi officials acknowledged Saturday that the Washington Post columnist was killed in a “fistfight” in its Istanbul consulate.
During a party conference in the eastern state of Thuringia on Saturday, Merkel referred briefly to Saudi Arabia and “the terrible events” surrounding Khashoggi’s slaying on Oct. 2 saying “still nothing has been cleared up.”
She added that “of course we are demanding that they be cleared up.”
Germany has joined other nations in calling for a credible investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
Berlin has long-standing economic ties with Riyadh that include significant arms shipments. According to official figures, the German government has authorized arms exports worth 254 million ($291 million) euros to Saudi Arabia since March.
Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia should “immediately produce” the body of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi so that independence forensic experts can conduct an autopsy in line with international standards.
The human rights group issued the appeal on Saturday after Saudi Arabia said the columnist for The Washington Post was killed in a “fistfight” in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, in a reversal from previous Saudi assertions that it knew nothing about Khashoggi’s fate. The writer vanished after entering the consulate on Oct. 2.
Samah Hadid, Middle East director of campaigns for Amnesty International, says in a statement that the Saudi version of events can’t be trusted and that whoever is responsible, regardless of their rank or status, should be brought to justice.
Hadid says an independent investigation ordered by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would be necessary to avoid a “Saudi whitewash” of circumstances surrounding the killing or any attempts by other governments to “sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative arms deals and other business ties with Riyadh.”
Turkey is conducting its own investigation of the killing and has promised to publicize its results once the probe is complete.
The head of a media group says the “authority that gave the orders” to kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be punished.
Turan Kislakci, president of the Turkish Arab Media Association, spoke Saturday outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi vanished after entering the building on Oct. 2.
After initially denying any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, the kingdom said early Saturday that the Saudi writer and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was killed in a “fistfight” in the consulate and that 18 Saudis have been arrested.
Kislakci says Khashoggi was “slaughtered by bloody murderers” and that his group wants “true justice” for its slain colleague.
The deputy head of Turkey’s ruling party says Turkey will “never allow a cover-up” of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
Numan Kurtulmus of the ruling Justice and Development Party also said Saturday that Turkey would share its evidence of Khashoggi’s killing with the world and that a “conclusive result” of the investigation is close.
His comments came hours after Saudi Arabia said Khashoggi died after a “fistfight” in its consulate, and that 18 Saudi suspects are in custody. Turkish pro-government media have given a different account, saying a hit squad was sent from Saudi Arabia to kill the columnist for The Washington Post.
Kurtulmus says he thinks “it’s not possible for the Saudi administration to wiggle itself out of this crime if it’s confirmed.”
Britain’s Foreign Office says it is considering the Saudi report confirming writer Jamal Khashoggi’s death, and reiterated that those responsible must be held to account.
In a statement Saturday, the ministry said “We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps.”
It added: “As the foreign secretary has said, this was a terrible act and those responsible must be held to account.”
Meanwhile, opposition parties Labour and the Liberal Democrats urged Britain to take steps to suspend arms sales to the kingdom.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said that Britain’s heavy reliance on the Saudis for arms sales “is embarrassingly compromising in these circumstances.”
A United Nations spokesman says U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply troubled” by the confirmation of the violent death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, following Saudi Arabia’s acknowledgement that he was killed in its Istanbul consulate.
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric says Guterres “stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.”
Saudi Arabia said early Saturday that the columnist for The Washington Post had been killed in a “fistfight” in the consulate after he went there on Oct. 2. It says 18 Saudi suspects are in custody and intelligence officials have been fired.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to speak at the opening of a stadium early Saturday afternoon, though it is unclear whether he will comment on Saudi Arabia’s acknowledgement that Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate.
Erdogan, who has promised a thorough investigation of Khashoggi’s killing, is to make public remarks in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.
Turkish pro-government media had said for days that an official hit squad traveled from Saudi Arabia to kill Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2. That version differs from the account of Saudi Arabia, which said early Saturday that the Saudi journalist died in a “fistfight.”
Saudi Arabia says 18 Saudi suspects are in custody and that intelligence officials were fired.
U.S. President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s announcement that suspects are in custody for Khashoggi’s killing is a “good first step,” though some U.S. lawmakers say Saudi Arabia’s account isn’t credible and seems designed to exonerate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of any involvement.
A senior member of Turkey’s ruling party has criticized Saudi Arabia over its acknowledgement that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Leyla Sahin Usta says the kingdom should have given its explanation “before the situation reached this point.”
Usta, a human rights official in the ruling Justice and Development Party, said Saturday that Turkish authorities, including prosecutors, forensic and security officials, have already reached some conclusions as part of their investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
She says it would have been “more valuable” if Saudi officials had admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its diplomatic post.
Saudi Arabia initially denied allegations that the columnist for The Washington Post had been killed in its consulate. It acknowledged early Saturday that he had and said 18 Saudi suspects were in custody and intelligence officials had been fired.
Amnesty International says the “impartiality” of a Saudi investigation into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi would remain in question after authorities in the kingdom said the journalist died after a fight in the consulate in Istanbul.
Amnesty’s Rawya Rageh says early Saturday the rights group and other organizations have been very clear that what is needed is “an impartial and independent investigation by the U.N. to find out what happened and ensure justice” for Khashoggi.
She said rights groups have been concerned of a “whitewash” in the investigation.
Khashoggi disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Saudi authorities say a fight broke out in the consulate after which Khashoggi died.
Saudi Arabia claims Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, finally admitting that the writer had been slain at its diplomatic post.
Authorities say 18 Saudi suspects were in custody and intelligence officials had been fired.
The overnight announcements in Saudi state media came more than two weeks after Khashoggi, 59, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for paperwork required to marry his Turkish fiancée, and never came out.
They also contradicted assertions in Turkish media leaks that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate, claims the kingdom had rejected as “baseless.”
But growing international pressure and comments by U.S. officials up to President Donald Trump forced the kingdom to acknowledge Khashoggi’s death.