US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo feels “serious commitment” from Saudi leaders for accountability in Khashoggi case
Donald Trump says blaming Saudi Arabia is case of “guilty until proven innocent”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on Tuesday that his meetings with Saudi leaders over the case of columnist Jamal Khashoggi were "candid and transparent" and committed to ensure accountability from the kingdom's senior leaders or officials on the Saudi journalist's disappearance.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump told the Associated Press that blaming Saudi Arabia is another case of “guilty until proven innocent”, citing the example of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
"I think we have to find out what happened first,” Mr Trump said. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned" he added.
Meanwhile, Mr Pompeo seemed confident about the Saudi commitment to an investigation following a day-long visit to Riyadh where he met King Salman bin Abdel Aziz, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir and the Ambassador to the United States Khalid bin Salman.
“We had direct and candid conversations. I emphasised the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation, and the Saudi leadership pledged to deliver precisely on that”, Mr Pompeo said.
During those meetings, Mr Trump called the Crown Prince, who “conveyed that a serious and credible investigation is already under way.
He pledged that the work of the Saudi public prosecutor will produce a full and complete conclusion with full transparency “for the world to see”, added the statement. The Saudi king ordered on Monday an internal probe into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Mr Pompeo reiterated the Saudi leadership's strong denial of “any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul” amid Turkish official leaks that Mr Khashoggi was killed in the consulate on October 2.
But Mr Pompeo referenced a Saudi commitment to accountability in the case. “My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability,” he said.
The secretary of state heads to Turkey on Wednesday, and has said the US will remain in close contact with Saudi and Turkish authorities “as they complete this process and ultimately announce their findings.”
Riyadh and Ankara are running a joint investigation, and a Saudi delegation arrived in Turkey last Friday for that purpose.
Facing increasing pressure from Congress, Mr Trump said that Mohammed bin Salman told him that answers will be forthcoming shortly:
Several public relations firms in Washington have cut ties with Saudi Arabia following reports about Mr Khashoggi’s possible fate while others have withdrawn from an investment conference hosted by Riyadh next week. US Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin is still scheduled to attend.