U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 14, 2019.
(photo credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
RIYADH - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Saudi leaders assured him everyone responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be held accountable, as Riyadh tries to resolve its biggest political crisis in a generation.
Pompeo told reporters he had also raised a number of human rights issues with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including women's rights activists who have been detained for months and some allegedly tortured.
Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of the crown prince, was killed in October in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate, prompting a global outcry including US Treasury sanctions on 17 individuals and a Senate resolution blaming Prince Mohammed.
A CIA assessment has blamed the crown prince for ordering the killing, which Saudi officials deny. At least 21 Saudis are under investigation in the case, with five facing the death penalty. Five officials were also fired, including a senior royal advisor.
"They both acknowledged that accountability needed to take place. They talked about the process that is occurring inside their country, both the investigative process and the judicial process that is taking place," Pompeo said.
"They reiterated their commitment to achieve the objective, the expectations we set for them."
Pompeo last visited Riyadh two weeks after Khashoggi disappeared to press the key US ally on the whereabouts of the Washington Post
contributor, who disappeared after entering the consulate to obtain marriage documents.
The outcry over the murder has tarnished the reputation of Prince Mohammed, strained ties with Western allies and focused attention on Saudi Arabia's domestic crackdown on dissent and the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led and US-backed coalition is supporting the internationally-recognized government.
"Where friends think the other one has fallen short, I was very clear and candid about those things where America is not satisfied with and where they are not meeting our expectations," said Pompeo.
He said he had also raised the Gulf Arab dispute with Qatar after saying a day earlier in Qatar that it had gone on for too long and was threatening regional unity needed to counter Iran.
"We did talk about how we might put the Gulf rift back in a better place," he said. "I think they’d like to see that too. It’s a matter of us all figuring out how to do it together, but mostly those countries figuring out how they can put it back together."
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>