US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said he expects Turkish and Saudi Arabian investigations to reveal a “complete picture” of what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the Trump administration comes under increasing pressure to respond to the incident.
Mr Pompeo was hastily dispatched to Saudi Arabia by President Donald Trump on Monday. Following a day of meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mr Pompeo said the Saudi leaders understood the importance of producing a quick but thorough report on Mr Khashoggi’s fate after entering the consulate on October 2.
“We made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr Khashoggi very seriously,” Mr Pompeo told reporters at the White House after meeting with Trump. The Saudis agreed, he said, adding that “they also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all the facts surrounding Mr Khashoggi and that they will do so in a timely fashion.”
Mr Pompeo said that he recommended President Trump give the Saudis and Turks “a few more days” to investigate.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump said on Thursday that “it certainly looks” like Mr Khashoggi is dead
He gave his administration’s first official indication that the disappeared journalist appears to have perished.
Asked by reporters at Joint Base Andrews if Mr Khashoggi is dead, Mr Trump said “it certainly looks that way to me.” He also vowed “severe” consequences.
“It will have to be severe” he said.
The Trump administration faces growing bipartisan outrage in Congress over Saudi Arabia’s role in Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance. Lawmakers are threatening to sanction the Saudi government, while President Trump, who has cultivated closer ties to the kingdom, has so far sought to downplay the incident.
In his remarks, Mr Pompeo stressed the long alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia. “They are an important strategic alliance of the United States and we need to be mindful of that as well,” he said.
The Saudis, Mr Pompeo said, also said the investigation “will be transparent” and the results made publicly available. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Mr Pompeo that his government is conducting its own investigation of what happened to Mr Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve a document for his upcoming wedding.
“We do believe that between these two efforts a complete picture will emerge for what actually transpired here,” Mr Pompeo said.
Mr Khashoggi, who wrote critically about Prince Mohammed, hasn’t been seen since entering the consulate. Turkish officials have said he was murdered and dismembered within the building by Saudi agents who were waiting for him to arrive. Saudi officials have insisted Mr Khashoggi left unharmed, without providing any evidence of the claim.
Since his disappearance, a number of business and political leaders have announced they will not be attending a forthcoming investment summit in Saudi Arabia.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday he would not attend. "Just met with @realDonaldTrump and @SecPompeo and we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia," Mnuchin wrote on Twitter.