Washington, United States:
US President Donald Trump expressed concern Monday about the fate of prominent Saudi journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.
“I am concerned. I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“Right now, nobody knows anything about it. There are some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.”
Khashoggi, a US resident, has written articles over the past year critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. On the eve of his planned marriage to a Turkish woman, entered the consulate Tuesday and has not been seen since.
Turkish officials have said he was murdered inside the consulate. Riyadh denies that and claims he left the compound on his own.
The issue threatens to strain the close relationship Prince Mohammed has forged with the Trump administration, which until now has been willing to turn a blind eye to Saudi human rights violations and its bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which has killed thousands of civilians.
Trump has instead focused on US and Saudi shared interests in ratcheting up pressure on Iran.
But two senior senators of Trump’s Republican party warned Monday that the relationship could be imperiled if the stories about Khashoggi are correct.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Riyadh must provide “honest answers” about the journalist.
“We agree that if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the US-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid — economically and otherwise,” Graham tweeted.
“Our country’s values should be and must be a cornerstone of our foreign policy with foes and allies alike,” he said.
Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned against governments attacking journalists outside their countries.
“I have raised Jamal’s disappearance personally with the Saudi ambassador, and while we await more information, know we will respond accordingly to any state that targets journalists abroad,” he wrote.
The Washington Post, which has employed self-exiled Khashoggi over the past year, also pressured the administration to investigate.
“If Mr. Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate, it will cast the Saudi regime and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a new and disturbing light and require a thorough reevaluation of US-Saudi relations,” the newspaper said in an op-ed.
Khashoggi, 59, has had a long career as a senior journalist in Saudi Arabia and also as an advisor to top officials.
But since the emergence of Prince Mohammed, 33, as the center of power in the kingdom last year, Khashoggi has been openly critical of the monarchy.
He has assailed the prince’s reforms as hollow, accusing him of introducing a new Saudi era of “fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)