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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced questions on the Trump administration's response to Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. EPA

Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks to Turkey's Erdogan over Khashoggi death

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday for the first time since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Prince Mohammed and Mr Erdogan “discussed the necessary steps” to shed light on the murder, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The conversation comes a day after the Turkish leader gave a widely anticipated speech to reveal the "naked truth" about the killing, however, he gave scant new information regarding the case.

The call was announced as the crown prince took to the stage to speak at a key economic forum in Riyadh on Wednesday. In his first public comments since the incident, Prince Mohammed called Khashoggi's murder a "heinous crime that cannot be justified".

British prime minister Theresa May followed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday saying that her country would revoke visas for anyone suspected of being involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mrs May said she would speak to Saudi Arabia's King Salman later on Wednesday regarding the matter.

"There does remain an urgent need to establish exactly what has happened in relation to this ... I myself expect to speak to King Salman later today," Mrs May told the British parliament.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Tuesday that the Trump administration will be revoking visas for Saudi individuals suspected of involvement in the killing of prominent writer Jamal Khashoggi.

The government insider turned self-exiled critic disappeared on October 2 when he entered Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. Officials in Riyadh later admitted he had been killed and blame an unsanctioned operation without the knowledge of the kingdom's leaders.

Mr Pompeo's remarks came as US President Donald Trump said he was convinced that King Salman had no advance knowledge of the incident, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"The cover-up was horrible. The execution was horrible," he told news media on Tuesday night at the White House. "But there should have never been an execution or a cover-up because it should have never happened."

He said he wanted to believe Prince Mohammed's assurances that lower-level officials were to blame, but suggested responsibility may lay higher up.

"Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him," Mr Trump told the newspaper.

Mr Trump described the operation as the "worst cover-up ever" and a "very bad original concept" before saying those responsible had handled the matter badly. Mr Trump said he had asked the prince multiple times about the matter.

"My first question to him was, 'Did you know anything about it in terms of the initial planning?'" Mr Trump said, adding that the prince told him that he did not.

The president said he asked the prince "'Where did it start?' And he said it started at lower levels."

Asked if he believed the denials, Mr Trump told the newspaper: "I want to believe them. I really want to believe them".

Separately, Mr Trump said he is waiting for "all the facts" about the case before announcing further action, reiterating that the killing of Khashoggi was a terrible thing.

Speaking at the State Department, Mr Pompeo said “we have identified at least some of the individuals responsible" for the killing. He did not name names but added that the US would be taking “appropriate actions” to make it clear that it "does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action”.

Mr Pompeo announced that the administration would start by “revoking visas” for those implicated in the killing and that they include members of the intelligence services, the foreign ministry, the royal court and other Saudi ministries where the US suspects involvement. Both former Saudi officials Saud Al Qahtani and General Ahmed Assiri had visited the US before they were sacked last Friday.

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Read more:

Saudi King, Crown Prince meet Khashoggi family

Turkey's president requests extradition of suspects in Khashoggi killing

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“Those penalties won’t be the last step,” Mr Pompeo said. The State Department is consulting with the Treasury on applying Magnitsky Act sanctions and targeting individuals involved with further sanctions. The US Senate foreign relations committee urged the White House two weeks ago to trigger the Magnitsky Act — a law that applies globally that was introduced by then President Barack Obama in 2012 intended to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009 — and authorise an investigation and later on sanctions in the Khashoggi case.

Mr Pompeo said the US has “identified at least some of the individuals responsible” and is still gathering information. The director of the CIA Gina Haspel held meetings in Turkey on Tuesday to assess Ankara’s intelligence in the case.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is in Saudi Arabia and has met Prince Mohammed. This comes after Mr Pompeo visited Riyadh last week to consult with Saudi officials.