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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Saudi Arabia says will reject ‘any threats’ after Donald Trump comments

US leader said ‘severe punishment’ awaits party behind journalist’s disappearance in Turkey

President Donald Trump said the US would be "foolish" to cancel large arms deals with Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. Pool via Bloomberg
President Donald Trump said the US would be "foolish" to cancel large arms deals with Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. Pool via Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it would reject “any threats” to the kingdom and vowed that it would retaliate with consequences for the world economy after international warnings regarding the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

The statement came after US President Donald Trump said “severe” punishment awaits those responsible if the journalist is found dead.

"The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats or attempts to undermine it whether through threats to impose economic sanctions or the use of political pressure," an official source said, quoted by state news agency SPA.

The unnamed source said Riyadh would “respond to any action with a bigger one,” pointing out that the oil superpower “plays an effective and vital role in the world economy”.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of US legislators triggered a human rights investigation into Mr Khashoggi's disappearance that could result in sanctions if he is found to have been killed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly demanded that Saudi Arabia provide evidence that the Saudi reporter, who had US residency, left its consulate in Istanbul safely on October 2 as Riyadh has stated. He was last seen entering the compound and authorities are yet to provide visual evidence of his leaving the consulate.

His fiance, in an op-ed for the New York Times on Saturday, says he has at least been detained and is still awaiting the findings of any investigation.

“I keep asking the same questions to myself: Where is he? Is he alive? If he is alive, how is he?” she wrote.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saudi Arabia had not yet cooperated with Turkey on the search for Mr Khashoggi. He said Turkish “prosecutors and experts must enter” the consulate “and Saudi Arabia must cooperate with us on this”.

This comes as a Saudi team has reportedly arrived in Turkey to assist in the investigation, a move praised by officials in Riyadh.

Mr Trump, in an interview with CBS, made his strongest statements about the case of the missing Washington Post reporter in initial excerpts released from the interview.

“As of this moment, they deny it, and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes,” he said.

Mr Trump said he would meet with Mr Khashoggi's family.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman denied that anything happened to Mr Khashoggi at the consulate in a public interview with Bloomberg.

“The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do,” Prince Mohammed said in an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday at a royal palace in Riyadh. “We have nothing to hide.”

The allegations surrounding the reporter’s disappearance has led to several companies and high profile individuals pulling out of a high-level summit in Riyadh next week. A number of local business leaders are expected to step in to fill gaps at the meet.

But Mr Trump has appeared reluctant to interrupt important deals between Washington and Riyadh.

He said in his CBS interview that "we would be punishing ourselves" by cancelling arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which his administration touted on his first overseas trip.

The sale is a “tremendous order for our companies,” and if the kingdom doesn't buy its weaponry from the United States, they will buy it from others, he said