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Wednesday Oct 24 2018

Trump says Erdogan 'pretty rough' on Saudis over Khashoggi

US President Donald Trump at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Files

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Tuesday his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, was “pretty rough” on Saudi Arabia in the remarks about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and said Riyadh’s handling of the matter was “the worst cover-up ever”.

Trump told reporters he wanted to get all the facts on Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before agreeing with Erdogan’s assessment. Consequent to sending his CIA director, Gina Haspel, to Turkey to discuss the issue, said he expected to have a report pretty soon.

The disappearance and presumed death of Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, has caused an international outcry and strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Western allies.

Arab allies have rallied to Riyadh’s support, but Western pressure has intensified on Saudi Arabia to provide convincing answers.

The American head of state, however, has appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudis, citing Riyadh’s role in countering Iranian influence in the Middle East and lucrative potential arms deals.

Last Wednesday, he had told the Associated Press in an interview that this was a case of “guilty until proven innocent”. Then, a day later, on Thursday, he had said he believes Khashoggi was likely dead and has warned of a potential “very severe” response.

Though noting that he might consider sanctions against Riyadh over the journalist's disappearance, he emphasised the importance of the US-Saudi relationship. “Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, they’ve been a tremendous investor in the United States,” Trump had said.

“They agreed to spend $450 billion on buying in and investing in the United States, so I hope we can keep that open. ... There are plenty of other things we can do,” he had said, adding, “I might know a lot by Monday. I know a lot already.”

It was too early to say what the consequences for the incident might be, he mentioned, but that the US Congress would be involved in determining the American response.

“We’re going to find out who knew what when and where. And we’ll figure it out,” Trump said, adding: “I will very much listen to what Congress has to say. They feel very strongly about it also.”


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