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News > World

Western Powers Decline to Cut Ties With Saudi Arabia Despite Outcry Over Khashoggi’s Murder

  •  Activists chant as they begin a demonstration calling for sanctions against Saudi Arabia outside the White House in Washington, U.S., Oct. 19, 2018.

    Activists chant as they begin a demonstration calling for sanctions against Saudi Arabia outside the White House in Washington, U.S., Oct. 19, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 October 2018

Three of the West's biggest powers, the U.S., France and the U.K., are still mulling over the decision to cut ties with the oil-rich country.

Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi Arabia brought forth divisive reactions from different countries. While the majority of them condemned the Saudi actions, some major Western countries are still reluctant to cut ties with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.


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Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist from Saudi Arabia, went into a self-imposed exile in the United States a year ago when Bin Salman started to crack down on dissent in the kingdom.

The Washington Post columnist then disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. While Turkey maintained that the kingdom killed the dissident journalist, Saudi officials denied all allegations for two weeks, claiming he had left the consulate, before finally admitting to the killing.

Turkish investigators found that a team of 15 Saudis, with a strong connection to the crown prince, arrived in Turkey the same day Khashoggi disappeared and deemed them to be instrumental in his death.

After weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia finally admitted Friday that the journalist died in the consulate but provided conflicting reports — one account described him of being killed during a “fistfight”, and another said he died in a chokehold.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir commented Sunday that the killing of Khashoggi was a “huge and grave mistake” but maintained the narrative that Crown Prince Salman havd no clue of the actions.

“This was an operation that was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had,” he said during an interview with Fox News. “They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it.”


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While this narrative has been decried by many, three of the western hemisphere's biggest powers, the U.S., France and the U.K., are still mulling over the decision of cutting ties with the oil-rich country or holding Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, responsible for such a heinous crime. 

The U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that it was premature to comment on possible sanctions against Saudi Arabia until an investigation has been completed. “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,” said Mnuchin.

U.S. President Donald Trump also said that he was not satisfied with Saudis’ handling of the case.

"I'm not satisfied until we find the answer but it was a big first step," he said Saturday, referring to the kingdom's move to fire a number of high-level officials. "I want to get to the answer."

He had earlier said that Saudi Arabia’s explanation was “credible” but what happened was “bad, bad stuff.” However, according to Trump, it was entirely “possible” that the crown prince had no knowledge of it.

But the country will still collaborate on important issues. Even though Mnuchin decided against attending Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh on Oct. 23, he would definitely visit the country in a November visit planned to meet with his counterpart on joint efforts to counter terrorist financing and plans by Washington to reimpose sanctions against Iran.

“I did not think it was appropriate to go and speak at this conference but we continue to have important issues with Saudi and that is why I am going there,” Mnuchin said.

Even though France, U.K., and Germany, called for the whole truth on Khashoggi’s murder, the former two countries are not changing their stance on Saudi Arabia in the near future, while Germany had canceled arms sales to the kingdom in the wake of Khashoggi controversy.

The U.K.’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said the country is not prepared to sever ties even though he questioned the credibility of the Saudi explanation.


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Nevertheless, his government has come under pressure to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia when five opposition parties wrote to the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. Previously, the Labour Party also said it would not tolerate human rights violation by the Saudi authorities.

Responding to that, Raab said, “The problem with Labour's position is it would cost thousands of British jobs. So, what we would rather do is support the investigation, find out what happened.”

France declined to say Monday whether it would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. Foreign ministry deputy spokesman Olivier Gauvin said only that France’s arms sales control policy was strict and based on a case-by-case analysis by an inter-ministerial committee.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, a government minister said France’s influence in the region was at stake and it was vital that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman retain his position.

“The challenge is not to lose MBS, even if he is not a choir boy. A loss of influence in the region would cost us much more than the lack of arms sales,” the minister said.  

Among the Middle Eastern countries, Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates endorsed the accounts and explanations by Saudi Arabia. From South Asia, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan left for the kingdom to attend the investment conference boycotted by most countries, media houses, and business organizations.

Khan told the Middle East Eye in an interview published Monday that he could not pass up the invitation to meet Saudi leaders again.


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"The reason I feel I have to avail myself of this opportunity is because in a country of 210 million people right now we have the worst debt crisis in our history," he was quoted as saying.

"Unless we get loans from friendly countries or the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we actually won't have in another two or three months enough foreign exchange to service our debts or to pay for our imports. So we're desperate at the moment."

But Khan was “concerned” over Khashoggi’s death and would wait for an explanation and "hope there is an explanation that satisfies people and those responsible are punished."

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country and the world’s largest Muslim majority country called a for “transparent and thorough” investigation of the death of Khashoggi Monday while welcoming the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir with open arms in the country.

While the death of the journalist witnessed continuous protest over the last few weeks, the above-mentioned countries are tacitly adding to the power of the crown prince who has been criticized of severe human rights violations, Yemen war crimes, and frequent use of capital punishment on dissenting voices.

According to latest updates in the Khashoggi case, a CCTV footage had been aired by CNN Monday where Khashoggi’s body double could be seen wearing his clothes, walking around, after his death.

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