The subject of intense global speculation, the death of Jamal Khashoggi is, at its very heart, a story of human tragedy. A father and grandfather will not be returning home, as many friends and supporters had fervently hoped. The confirmation by Saudi authorities of his death, along with an expression of "deep regret" by the kingdom's attorney general, brings to a tragic conclusion 18 days of conjecture about the nature of his disappearance. The Saudi pledge of justice and taking all measures necessary is a crucial move.
The tragedy has shown how quickly misinformation spreads in the absence of evidence. After days of leaks and counterleaks, an official position and investigation is crucial. The first priority now must be to locate Khashoggi's body and hold those responsible. At least then the grieving process can begin for his family.
The apology from Saudi authorities, which has been hailed by the UAE government as a fair and just move in the search for truth, is a vital step and should not be undermined. In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi government stated: "The Kingdom expresses its deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place and stresses the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the public opinion, to hold all those involved accountable and bring them to justice". On the orders of King Salman, the public prosecutor has already begun questioning a number of suspects and is working with Turkish authorities to determine any malintent or whether Khashoggi died as a result of a brawl gone wrong. As the statement says, the "the need to clearly know the truth and declare it transparently" is key. So, too, is the need for timely punishment for any offenders.
The pledge of Saudi authorities to complete a thorough investigation of what occurred that day means more steps will be announced.
Across the world, sands are shifting, as old orders fall and new ones rise. Saudi Arabia has a great opportunity to establish itself as a dominant global leader – economically, politically and militarily. As UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, wrote on Twitter: "The security, stability and role of the region in the international environment depends on Saudi Arabia".
The world is changing and Saudi’s pioneering march towards progress since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation should allow it to seize that potential. The promised restructuring of intelligence services and the dismissing of officials are now part of that move towards progress that is much needed in this part of the world.