UK minister to pressure Saudi on Khashoggi murder and Yemen bloodshed

The UK foreign secretary will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday to urge leaders to end the war in Yemen and coope...

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 10:58 AM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 10:58 AM

The UK foreign secretary will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday to urge leaders to end the war in Yemen and cooperate with Turkey's investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Jeremy Hunt will be the first senior British minister to visit Saudi Arabia since the Washington Post columnist was killed in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul more than a month ago.

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Hunt will meet with King Salman and his son, the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Speaking before his trip, Hunt said: "We encourage the Saudi authorities to cooperate fully with the Turkish investigation into his death, so that we deliver justice for his family and the watching world.

"The international community remain united in horror and outrage at the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

The minister will also travel to the United Arab Emirates to try to bolster support there for a UN-led peace process in Yemen, which has been devastated by sectarian fighting. A Saudi-led multinational coalition intervened in the conflict in March 2015.

Hunt said: "The human cost of war in Yemen is incalculable: with millions displaced, famine and disease rife and years of bloodshed, the only solution is now a political decision to set aside arms and pursue peace."

Drip feed of details

Hunt's arrival in Riyadh follows comments by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, in which he revealed that recordings related to Khashoggi's death have been passed on to Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

He did not elaborate on what was on the recordings.

Erdogan's confirmation that recordings relating to the murder have been handed to key international players is the latest in a drip-feed of details released by Turkey in the weeks since the journalist disappeared.

The Saudis have presented shifting stories about the journalist's fate, initially denying any knowledge before arguing that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's inner circle, were responsible for Khashoggi's death.

The Saudi attorney general then said the Turkish side had provided information indicating that the killing was premeditated. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister and Energy Minister have both described Khashoggi's death as "murder."

Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials have said such a mission -- including the 15 men sent from Riyadh -- could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, the country's de facto ruler.

After Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman's media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service. Eighteen people were arrested.

Pompeo talks with the crown prince

International pressure on Saudi Arabia has continued to build. On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the US will hold accountable all those involved in the killing of Khashoggi.

The comments, made during what was described by the US State Department as a "wide ranging" conversation, comes as the US looks to push Saudi Arabia to end the brutal civil war in Yemen and ease a regional standoff with Qatar.

"Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke today with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Secretary emphasized that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"On Yemen, the Secretary reiterated the United States' calls for a cessation of hostilities and for all parties to come to the table to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict under the UN Special Envoy."

The Trump administration has been criticized by activists and some members of Congress for its support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen and for the administration's recent finding that the coalition was doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.

The US military provides the Saudi collation with training meant to help minimize civilian casualties, as well as aerial refueling of coalition warplanes.

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