Saudi Arabia has hired a New York-based communications company in an attempt to improve its image following the international fallout over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Amid persistent global criticism over its rights record, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) signed a one-year, $120,000 a month contract with KARV Communications.
Media reports claimed that the U.S. company was charged with the task "of improving the reputation and image" of the PIF and its senior executives.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national, disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to receive paperwork for marriage. Istanbul's chief prosecutor's office later revealed that once inside, Khashoggi was immediately strangled and then dismembered, presumably by a 15-member Saudi hit squad that arrived in Istanbul and was at the consulate during the journalist's visit. All of these individuals have since left Turkey and were later arrested by Saudi authorities.
Previously, the U.S. revoked the visas of the individuals responsible for killing the journalist and U.S. President Donald Trump indicated that Riyadh was trying to cover up the matter and that MBS may have been involved in the case.
Trump, however, appears to be reluctant to impose further sanctions as he considers Riyadh an important ally to contain growing Iranian influence in the region.
U.S. lawmakers, on the other hand, look to suspend negotiations with Saudi Arabia on a nuclear technology sharing agreement and have called for halting arms sale to Riyadh. Trump, nevertheless, maintains that order of $110 billion in weapons that support 500,000 U.S. jobs should not be put in peril.
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