Pompeo to hold talks with Saudi prince over Khashoggi’s murder

Riyadh: Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, is set to hold talks with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder today.

Pompeo is on an extensive, eight-day trip to the Middle East and it is his second politically sensitive visit to Saudi Arabia since the killing of the critic inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman is facing an international condemnation over the journalist’s murder and Pompeo walks a diplomatic tightrope. Ahead of his arrival in the Saudi capital, he told reporters that they will continue to have a conversation with the prince about until the accountability is full and complete with respect to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post contributor, was murdered on 2 October and it strained the ties between Riyadh and Washington.

US President Donald Trump brushed aside international outrage to stand by Prince Mohammed over the murder of Khashoggi. His support has come despite the US Central Intelligence Agency’s report that Prince Mohammed very likely ordered the murder.

A resolution approved by the US Senate last month also held the crown prince responsible for the killing. Riyadh prosecutors have announced indictments against 11 people and are seeking the death penalty against five of them.

But they have exonerated Prince Mohammed, whose right-hand aides were allegedly involved in the murder. Khashoggi’s murder has cast a renewed spotlight on the Saudi military campaign in Yemen, gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, but it was not clear whether the subject would be discussed during Monday’s meeting.

Pompeo during a previous visit to Riyadh outraged many after he shared a broad smile with the crown prince. However, Trump had clarified that Washington wants to maintain the alliance with the oil-rich kingdom, which he sees as a bulwark against common foe Iran and a lucrative buyer of US arms.

Rights groups have called on Pompeo to press Prince Mohammed over the jailing of women activists amid claims that some of them faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation.

On Sunday, Pompeo met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha and he refused to comment on reports Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran. He also called on Qatar and other Gulf Arab countries to end their worst political rift for years, which has seen Doha diplomatically and economically isolated by neighbouring former allies for the past 19 months.

In June 2017, US allies, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut ties with Qatar. Referring to the six-member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Pompeo said, “As for the GCC we are all more powerful when we’re working together when we have common challenges in the region and around the world. ”

He added that Trump and he both believed the ongoing dispute in the region has gone on too long. Mediation efforts by the United States, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, have stalled.

NT Bureau