Under global pressure over murder of Khashoggi, Saudis lash out at Ankara

Published 07.02.2019 00:06

Overwhelmed by the escalating global criticism against Riyadh for not doing enough in the murder investigation of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the frustrated princes of the Arabian kingdom have unjustly attacked Turkey. On his official social media account on Sunday, Prince Abdulrahman bin Musa'ad perceived the efforts of Turkey, a country that has been trying to bring the responsible to justice since the very beginning, as a personal offense. "[President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan had been credible for a long time, but now whenever he talks, he does nothing but confirm that his credibility has disappeared," he said.

Another prince, Sattam bin Khalid Al Saud, tweeted on Monday that Arabs suffered from "racist states responsible for the killing, rape, humiliation and looting of wealth in the name of religion, which could not be overlooked by anyone in the world."

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives in the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Initially denying and later downplaying the incident as an accidental killing in a fistfight, almost three weeks after the disappearance, Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated action, but denied any involvement by the royal family.

The incident was blamed on lower-level officials, including five that are now facing the death penalty over their involvement. Despite more than 100 days passing since his assassination, the whereabouts of his body remain unknown. Turkey has used every means available to bring those responsible to justice and to maintain international pressure, by providing audio recordings of the murder to world leaders.

The country also repeatedly called for the suspects to be extradited to Turkey where the crime was committed.

However, Saudi authorities have denied Ankara's requests and said the suspects will be tried in the kingdom. Referring to Erdoğan's remarks that Turkey has no gains from investigating the murder but is only doing so for humanitarian purposes, Monzer Al Sheikh Mubarak underscored that Ankara cannot talk about pride as the cultivation of cannabis will be allowed in the country in the near future. The comments from Mubarak, who is responsible for e-flies in Saudi Arabia, came on Sunday right after Erdoğan suggested that some Khashoggi hit squad members may be victims of "traffic accidents" operated by higher-ups.

Khashoggi's killing has brought near unprecedented international scrutiny on Saudi Arabia and its powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as well as demands for an international probe into the murder.

In the wake of the lack of concrete steps from Saudi Arabia, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, came to Turkey in late January to launch her own inquiry into the killing. The U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said in a statement that Callamard "assess the steps taken by governments to address and respond to the killing and the nature and extent of states' and individuals' responsibilities for the killing."

U.S. senator pressures Trump

administration to sanction RiyadhAlthough many counties reassessed their ties with Saudi Arabia following the murder, U.S. President Donald has been unwilling to sanction Saudi Arabia and criticize MBS by downplaying the role of the prince as he sees Riyadh as an important ally for containing Iranian power in the region and maintaining that an order for $110 billion of weapons that support 500,000 U.S. jobs should not be imperiled In response, the U.S. Senate is now preparing to propose legislation to force Washington to put stronger pressure on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi due to the deadline for deciding whether to impose additional sanctions in line with the Magnitsky Act nears.

Senator Robert Menendez in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced on Tuesday that New Jersey is planning to introduce new legislation designed to impose a stronger U.S. response to the killing as the White House failed to reply to the letter of him and 21 other senators sent four months ago. He said the Magnitsky Act, which targets the people responsible for human rights violations or corruption, gave the Trump administration and the State Department 120 days to make a decision on new sanctions and the period is ending on Feb. 8.

He added there are mounting reactions against the administration for not presenting any additional penalties against Riyadh and if the administration will not act by the deadline, Senate Foreign Relations Committee will propose the bill.

Menendez noted that the bill foresees suspending weapons sales to Riyadh, blocking U.S. refueling of Saudi-coalition aircraft engaged in Yemen's civil war and imposing mandatory sanctions on those responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

He pointed out that although Washington has previously revoked visas and imposed sanctions on Saudi individuals responsible for the murder, the White House has not specifically targeted MBS, whom the CIA assessed with high-confidence that he "personally targeted" Khashoggi and "probably ordered his death." Menendez underscored, therefore, the new legislation would include language specific to MBS.

In December, 2018, the U.S. Senate adopted a non-binding resolution saying the crown prince was responsible for the murder, after hearing the CIA's briefing on Khashoggi in the same month, the Senate also voted to halt Washington's support for Riyadh in the Yemen war, yet the U.S. House of Representatives did not implement the decision.

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