France raises pressure on Saudi Arabia over journalist Khashoggi's disappearance
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France’s foreign ministry said on Friday that it had asked Saudi Arabian authorities to provide transparent and detailed answers over the fate of veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he disappeared in Turkey.
“The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul ... has raised serious questions about his fate. France asks that the facts be clearly established and that all those who can contribute to the truth fully contribute to it,” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von der Muhll said in a statement.
“This is the message we passed to Saudi authorities. The charges brought against them require that they be transparent and provide a complete and detailed response.”
Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish sources have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the building and his body removed, allegations that Riyadh dismisses as baseless.
The Washington Post, citing unidentified US and Turkish officials, reported that Turkey had told US officials it has audio and video recordings that prove Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
It was not clear that US officials had seen the footage or heard the audio, the Post reported, but Turkish officials have described the recordings to them.
A delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Turkey as part of a joint investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance, two Turkish sources said on Friday.
A Saudi source also said a senior royal, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, visited Turkey on Thursday for talks. Later on the same day Turkey said the two countries had agreed to form a joint working group - at Riyadh's initiative - to investigate the case.
Trump refuses to limit arms sales
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he saw no reason to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of Khashoggi's disappearance, possibly setting up a clash with the US Congress.
Speaking to reporters, Trump said he saw no reason to block Saudi purchases of US arms or its investments in the United States despite the journalist's case, saying the Gulf nation would just move its money into Russia and China.
"They're spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs ... for this country. I don't like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States, because you know what they're going to do? They're going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else," he said.
His comments prompted pushback from members of the US Senate, including from some of his fellow Republicans, many of whom signed a letter on Wednesday forcing his administration to investigate Khashoggi's disappearance and paving the way to possible sanctions on Saudi officials.
"If it's found that they murdered a journalist, that will hugely change our relationship," Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters. "There will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels."
The Khashoggi incident might make it very hard for the Trump administration to win congressional approval for arms sales to the Saudis.
Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, have already questioned US support for Saudi's involvement in Yemen's civil war, which has prompted a humanitarian crisis.
Under US law, major foreign sales of military equipment can be blocked by Congress.
There is also an informal process in which key lawmakers can put "holds" on arm sales.
Trump, who sealed a $110 billion deal for US companies to sell arms to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as president in May 2017, said Washington was looking into the disappearance.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)