France ready to back 'international sanctions' over Khashoggi murder
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France is ready to back "international sanctions" against those responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Elysee Palace said after President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone to King Salman Wednesday.
The French president "informed (King Salman) of his profound indignation at the crime and demanded that all possible light be shone on the circumstances that led to this drama", his office said in a statement.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday said the killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was not ordered by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS], the king's son and Saudi Arabia's de-facto leader
The 59-year-old Washington Post contributor was a fierce critic of the crown prince and Riyadh's intervention in the war in Yemen.
“It has become one-man rule,” Khashoggi told FRANCE 24 in an interview last year. “[MBS] has control of everything. He is creating an environment of intimidation and fear. Saudis are being silenced. That is not a recipe for reform in Saudi Arabia – and he needs to do something about that.”
Macron told the king that France's main priority was "defending freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of the public. France will not hesitate to take international sanctions, together with its international partners, against the guilty", the statement said.
After more than two weeks of near silence, Saudi Arabia on Saturday admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate, saying it was an unauthorised operation -- a claim other countries have rejected.
The journalist disappeared after entering the consulate on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage. A body double was filmed leaving the building in the murdered journalist's clothes.
The case has shone the spotlight on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed, who has spearheaded reforms in the kingdom but now faces a stream of allegations -- denied by Riyadh -- that he ordered a high-profile critic killed.
The crown prince on Wednesday called the killing "repulsive". Western countries have demanded a thorough and transparent investigation.
The United States has threatened sanctions if the Saudi leadership is linked to the murder, and on Tuesday revoked the visas of 21 Saudi nationals implicated in the crime.
Britain, too, has announced it will scrap visas held by any suspects.
France said earlier Wednesday it would take "punitive measures" if Saudi Arabia is "proven" to be behind the murder.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)