World reacts to Saudi confirmation of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

After weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia has for the first time confirmed that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul. 

The kingdom claimed early on Saturday that the Washington Post columnist died after a “fist fight” inside the building and 18 Saudi citizens were arrested over the killing.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing on October 2 after entering the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage.

Saudi officials had previously denied Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic facility, insisting he had left the consulate before disappearing. 

Here’s a round-up of the first international reaction related to the confirmation of the Saudi journalist’s killing.

United Nations

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, is “deeply troubled” by Riyadh’s confirmation of Khashoggi’s death, according to a spokesperson.

The UN chief called for a “prompt, thorough, transparent” probe into the circumstances of the killing and urged full accountability for those who were involved.

“The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the confirmation of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. He extends his condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and friends,” Guterres’s office said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.”

Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump said that Saudi Arabia’s explanation for how Khashoggi was killed was credible, adding that what happened at the consulate is “unacceptable”.

Speaking to reporters at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, he said Khashoggi’s death was a “horrible event” that has not gone “unnoticed” but noted that the announcement on the circumstances of the journalist’s death was a “good first step”.

“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable,” Trump said.

He also said he prefers that any sanctions against Riyadh not include cancelling big defence orders.

White House

Earlier, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Washington acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s announcement and was “closely” following the developments.

“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process,” Sanders said.

“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancee, and friends.”

US politicians

Politicians in the US have reacted with disbelief at claims in Saudi Arabia’s state media that Khashoggi died following a “fist fight”.

“To say that I am sceptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr Khashoggi is an understatement,” prominent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter, adding it was “hard to find this latest ‘explanation’ as credible.”

Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff also questioned the Saudi’s credibility, tweeting: “If he was fighting with those sent to capture or kill him it was for his life. The kingdom must be held to account. If the administration doesn’t lead, Congress must.”

“Where is the body? Khashoggi’s family deserve immediate custody of the remains as they seek some measure of closure,” California’s Eric Swalwell, a senior Democrat congressman on the Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter.

‘Brutal assassination’

Karen Attiah, The Washington Post’s Global Opinions editor, described the Saudi announcement as “almost insulting”.

In another Twitter post, Attiah wrote: “Utter bulls**t”.

Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security, told Al Jazeera she was “surprised” by the Saudis’ story about Khashoggi’s death.

“They knew they had to come up with a story, and this is what they think is the best story for their purposes. It’s at the very least insufficient, but it’s also insulting. It’s ‘here’s our story and we’re sticking to it’.”

Greenberg said Saudi King Salman could have reprimanded and removed his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, from power for the killing.

“This is a brutal, horrifying, pointed assassination of a journalist who had strong ties to the West and was a resident of the United States. Each one of those is a line that you wouldn’t have expected the king to allow to be crossed,” Greenberg added.

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