Riyadh, Jan 14 (IANS) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told the Saudi King and Crown Prince that the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi must “be held accountable”, more than three months after the journalist was killed at the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.
Pompeo’s statement came during his trip to the Middle East which has taken him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The tour was aimed at reassuring allies of Washington’s commitment to the region, CNN reported.
“Every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father King Salman in Riyadh.
“I think the (Donald) Trump administration has made it clear that our expectation in all those involved in the murder of Khashoggi will be held accountable, so we spent time talking about human rights issues,” he added.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the Saudi Crown Prince, was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 after he went there to get documents for his marriage.
After providing conflicting accounts of Khashoggi’s fate, the kingdom admitted he was killed “accidentally” in a fist fight at the consulate by “rogue” agents. However, it denied the ruling royal family’s involvement in the killing.
The killing sparked global outrage. The CIA concluded that the Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder but US President Donald Trump cast doubt on his own intelligence community’s assessment.
Pompeo, who arrived in the kingdom’s capital on Sunday, also stressed the importance of continuing the investigation into the murder of Khashoggi.
This month, a Saudi court started the trial of 11 defendants in connection to Khashoggi’s death. Saudi prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty for five of them for their direct role in Khashoggi’s killing.
Pompeo’s visit came after Trump announced last month the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, a move that led to the resignation of his Defence Secretary James Mattis.
He also discussed Yemen with the Saudi leadership. The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted that both sides agreed on the need for a redoubled effort for peace in Yemen.
“On Yemen, (Pompeo and the Crown Prince) agreed on need for continued de-escalation and adherence to Sweden agreements, especially ceasefire and redeployment in Hudaydah. A comprehensive political solution is only way to the end the conflict,” the Embassy said.
The top US official was also scheduled to visit Kuwait but he had to cut short his tour over a family funeral.
The State Department announced that he would return to the US after his visit to Oman, adding that he will visit Kuwait in the near future.
Kuwait was the last stop of Pompeo’s tour where he was scheduled to attend the US-Kuwaiti Strategic Dialogue.