Saudi crown prince: Khashoggi killing a ‘heinous crime’

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday called the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “heinous crime” and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice in his first public remarks since the international crisis started.

“The crime was really painful to all Saudis, and I believe it is painful to every human in the world,” Crown Prince Mohammed said at an investment conference.

“It is a heinous crime that cannot be justified. Today, Saudi Arabia is carrying out all legal things to finalize the investigation to work with the — cooperate with the Turkish government and to present the perpetrators to the court and take their judgment.”

{mosads}The crown prince was speaking on a panel with officials from Lebanon and Beirut at Riyadh’s Future Investment Initiative, known as “Davos in the desert.”

The mood of the conference, coming on the heels of Khashoggi’s killing this month in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, has been dampened. Several American businesses pulled out of participating, as did Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Still, about $55 billion in agreements largely focused on the Saudi energy sector were pledged Tuesday on the first day of the forum, according to The Associated Press. The crown prince also received a standing ovation when he arrived Tuesday.

His Wednesday comments come a day after President Trump dialed up his rhetoric against the kingdom and his administration announced its first punitive steps against the Saudis.

On Tuesday, Trump called the Saudi response the Khashoggi’s killing the “worst cover-up ever.” He also for the first time suggested Crown Prince Mohammed could be involved in the mission to kill Khashoggi.

“He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced Tuesday visas will be revoked for those the United States has identified as suspects in the killing and said sanctions are also being considered.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist living in Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government, was killed Oct. 2 when he went to the consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

After claiming for weeks that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, the Saudis admitted Friday that he was killed there. The Saudi government holds that he was killed in a physical altercation during an unapproved operation to return him to Saudi Arabia.

Regional experts and U.S. lawmakers are skeptical any operation would have been carried out without the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s day-to-day leader.

Turkish officials say Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered by a 15-person Saudi hit squad that included a forensic doctor wielding a bone saw.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave his first extensive public remarks on the issue Tuesday, upping the pressure on the Saudis and Trump by calling the killing a “savage” premeditated murder directed by top Saudi officials.

Erdoğan and Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly spoke by phone Wednesday.

In the United States, lawmakers have called for harsh punishments against the Saudis, including sanctions, ending arms sales and cutting off support for its military campaign in Yemen.

Though he did not address the effects of the crisis on the U.S.-Saudi relations, Crown Prince Mohammed vowed at the conference it would not break Saudi-Turkish relations.

“We know that many are trying to use this painful thing to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” he said. “I want to send them a message: They will not be able to do that as long as there is a king called King Salman bin Abdulaziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and a president in Turkey called Erdoğan.”

He said Saudi Arabia and Turkey will cooperate to ensure “justice will be seen in the end.”

–Updated at 11:37 a.m. 

Tags Crown Prince Donald Trump Khashoggi killing Mike Pompeo sanctions Saudi Arabia Steven Mnuchin Turkey

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