The United Nations and the United States have expressed shock at Saudi Arabia’s confirmation that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its Consulate in Istanbul after a fight.
In a statement released by his Spokesperson in New York, the UN Secretary-General, Anthonio Guterres said that he was “deeply troubled” by the Saudi Arabia’s confirmation.
After weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia has for the first time confirmed that Khashoggi was killed in a “fistfight” inside its consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
A tweet posted by the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Friday stated that the missing Saudi journalist, a columnist with the Washington Post newspaper, was killed, claims reportedly echoed on Saudi State Television and news agency.
The tweet said that “discussions that took place with the citizen Jamal Khashoggi during his presence in the Consulate of the Kingdom in Istanbul…did not go as required and escalated negatively which led to a fight…which aggregated the situation and led to his death.”
Most countries have condemned the killing, including Israel, though its Prime Minister did not think it was worth throwing Saudi Arabia under the bus.
Many believe that the cosy relationship between the Late Khassoggi and terrorist elements like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood may have also necessitated the Israeli position.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last year that while the murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is “horrific,” it does not outweigh the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia.
“What happened in Istanbul is nothing short of horrific. But it’s balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia and the role it plays in the Middle East,” Netanyahu told foreign reporters at an event in Jerusalem. “Because if Saudi Arabia would be destabilized, the world, not the Middle East, will be destabilized,” Netanyahu said.
The MEE (Middle East Eye) had reported that the heat on Saudi Arabia made Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attempt to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start a conflict with Hamas in Gaza as part of a plan to divert attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A war in Gaza was among a range of measures and scenarios proposed by an emergency task force set up to counter increasingly damaging leaks about Khashoggi’s murder coming from Turkish authorities, according to sources with knowledge of the group’s activities.
The task force, which is composed of officials from the royal court, the foreign and defence ministries, and the intelligence service, briefs the the crown prince every six hours, MEE was told.
It advised bin Salman that a war in Gaza would distract US President Donald Trump’s attention and refocus Washington’s attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in bolstering Israeli strategic interests.
It also advised bin Salman to “neutralise Turkey by all means” – including attempts to bribe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with offers to buy Turkish arms and statements by the crown prince attempting to shore up relations between Riyadh and Ankara.
The Secretary-General of the UN said he was “deeply troubled by the confirmation of the death of Jamal Khashoggi and extends his condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and friends”.
Guterres stressed the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.
Saudi public prosecutor also announced on state television that a primary investigation into high-profile journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance had confirmed he was dead.
The public prosecutor said: “The discussions between Jamal Khashoggi and those he met at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul … devolved into a fistfight, leading to his death.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place in this case and affirms the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the attention of the public and to hold accountable all those involved”.
Guterres’s comments were the latest in a chorus of concern and condemnation over Khashoggi’s disappearance from UN officials and independent UN human rights experts.
Over the last few days, statements regarding the Khashoggi disappearance had been released by the offices of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, Bernard Duhaime, and the Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Dante Pesce.
Earlier, White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Washington acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s announcement and was “closely” following the developments.
“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.
“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancee, and friends,” Sanders said.
U.S. President Donald Trump at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona that Saudi Arabia’s explanation for how Khashoggi was killed was credible, adding that what happened at the consulate is “unacceptable”.
Trump said Khashoggi’s death was a “horrible event” that has not gone “unnoticed” but noted that the announcement on the circumstances of the journalist’s death was a “good first step”.
“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable,” Trump said, adding he prefers that any sanctions against Riyadh does not include cancelling big defence orders.
The Saudi government said it arrested 18 Saudis as a result of the initial investigation and fired five top officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing on Oct. 2 after entering the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage.
Saudi officials had previously denied Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic facility, insisting the journalist left the consulate before disappearing.
The public prosecutor last Thursday named the head of the negotiating team sent to repatriate him as the one who ordered his killing adding that the whereabouts of Mr Khashoggi’s body is still unknown.
The public prosecutor said he was seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged with the murder of Mr Khashoggi.
He said 11 out of 21 suspects had been indicted and that their cases would be referred to court, while the investigation with the remaining suspects would continue in order to determine their role in the crime.
Mr Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policy, was killed in the country’s Istanbul consulate in Turkey on October 2.
He was killed after a struggle by a lethal injection dose and his body was dismembered and taken out of the building, Mr Shaalan told reporters in Riyadh.
Riyadh had offered numerous contradictory explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance before saying he was killed in a rogue operation.
The case sparked global outcry, opened the kingdom to possible international sanctions and tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish officials had accused Prince Mohammed of ordering the murder while President Erdogan said the killing was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
U.S. President Donald Trump had suggested ultimate responsibility lay with the prince as de facto ruler.
A travel ban had been imposed on a top aide to the crown prince, Saud al-Qahtani, while investigations continued over his role, Mr Shaalan said.
He said Mr Qahtani had met the team ordered to repatriate Mr Kashoggi ahead of their journey to Istanbul to brief them on the journalist’s activities.
Mr Qahtani has already been fired from the royal court.
Turkey says it has a recording related to the killing which it has shared with Western allies.
President Tayyip Erdogan said the recordings are “appalling” and shocked a Saudi intelligence officer who listened to them.