U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday to meet with Saudi King Salman over missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Photo by U.S. Department of State/EPA-EFE
Palestinian activists hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on October 9 during a protest to draw attention to his disappearance in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI |
Oct. 16 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Tuesday and was scheduled to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the mystery surrounding reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post contributor, disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, leading to reports that he was killed there, perhaps for writing editorials that challenged the royal family.
Since the disappearance, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have deteriorated. A war of words erupted over the weekend between President Donald Trump and Saudi leadership, leading at one point to threats of U.S. sanctions — and in response, sky high oil prices.
Trump sent Pompeo to Riyadh to “get to the bottom of it.”
Pompeo thanked the king for “accepting my visit on behalf of President Trump,” and went into a closed door meeting with Saudi leaders.
Also on Tuesday, Turkish investigators will search the consulate building and Khashoggi’s home in Istanbul. Turkey will be Pompeo’s next stop.
— U.S. Mission to KSA (@USAinKSA) October 16, 2018
Khashoggi’s family issued a statement saying they want an independent commission to look into his disappearance.
“We are sadly and anxiously following the conflicting news regarding the fate of our father after losing contact with him two weeks ago. Our family is traumatized, and yearns to be together during this painful time,” the family said.
NBC News reported Tuesday one possibility for Khashoggi’s disappearance is rogue operatives accidentally killed Khashoggi during an interrogation at the consulate. One source told NBC News the Saudis wanted to give Salman plausible deniability that the killing was done without the knowledge of the royal family.
Khashoggi had gone to the consulate on Oct. 2 to obtain documents needed for his upcoming wedding.
Saudi Arabia dominates the oil markets and has been a key ally in the U.S. War on Terror. The kingdom just placed a large order for U.S.-made military arms, which Trump said he hopes won’t be jeopardized.
Trump warned Saudi leaders, though, of “severe punishment” in the Khashoggi case. Trump said he was told by King Salman in a phone call Monday the royal leader knew nothing about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Some business leaders are pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative, an economic conference set for next week in Riyadh. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week he would go, but Trump said Monday a final decision will be made Friday.