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Pompeo, Saudi minister meet on Khashoggi as US report deadline near

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-02-08 15:15
A demonstrator holds picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct 5, 2018.[Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday met with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir on bilateral ties and the death of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as the congressional deadline for the White House to submit an investigation report on his death was near.

According to a statement issued by the State Department's deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino, during their meeting, Pompeo thanked the Saudi official for his nation's "continued partnership with the United States across many regional and bilateral priorities."

Regarding the case of Khashoggi, the two diplomats "agreed on the importance of Saudi Arabia continuing its investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a credible and transparent manner, and holding all of those involved accountable," the statement read.

On Yemen, they reiterated their support for UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths' efforts to advance the political process, and the need for Yemen's government and the Houthis to swiftly implement agreements reached in Sweden.

Apart from the meeting, seven senators from both parties on Thursday renewed their push for the Trump administration to determine the persons responsible for the journalist's death before the deadline and punish the Saudi side for its alleged roles in the Khashoggi case and the high civilian casualties in Yemen.

In a joint statement, they urged the Trump administration to submit a report to the Senate on Khashoggi's murder to determine whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has been involved personally and whether the Trump administration intends to impose sanctions on anyone that is responsible.

These senators, including President Donald Trump's close ally Lindsey Graham, also said that they had introduced the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019, a "comprehensive legislation to hold Saudi Arabia accountable" for the death of Khashoggi, and the Saudi-led coalition "for its role in the devastating conflict in Yemen."

The bill prohibited certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as in-flight refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft, according to the statement.

The statement added that the legislation "also comes on the heels of a CNN investigation about US-made military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ending up in the hands of Al-Qaida and other adversaries of the United States."

"Seeing as the Trump administration has no intention of insisting on full accountability for Mr. Khashoggi's murderers, it is time for Congress to step in and impose real consequences to fundamentally reexamine our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen," said Senator Robert Menendez in the statement. "We will not accept the killings of more civilians and journalists with impunity and without consequence."

Also on Thursday, a UN-led team investigating the Khashoggi case said that evidence pointed to a "brutal and premeditated" crime "planned and perpetrated" by Saudi officials.

Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, accused Saudi officials of having "seriously undermined" and delayed Turkey's investigation of the crime scene.

Khashoggi went missing on Oct 2 last year after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork he needed to marry his fiancee. The Saudi authorities said he died in a "brawl" in the consulate, and denied that the Saudi crown prince had ordered the killing.

After releasing the results of its initial investigation, the Saudi Public Prosecution announced that 18 Saudis were arrested for their alleged connections with the killing.

The US Congress has urged a thorough investigation into his death, and threatened to take more actions against Saudi Arabia.

However, the Trump administration has been reluctant to further punish the Saudi government. Trump has said that he would stand with the Saudi Arabian crown prince despite the death of Khashoggi, and Pompeo said that the death of Khashoggi has "heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on."

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