News World Saudi Arabia threatens retaliation in the face of global anger over journalist disappearance

Saudi Arabia threatens retaliation in the face of global anger over journalist disappearance

Jamal Khashoggi travelled to Saudi Arabia to marry his Turkish fiancee but disappeared on October 2 after entering the consulate. Photo: AAP
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Saudi Arabia has threatened to retaliate over any attempt by the US to punish it over the suspected murder of an journalist at its Turkish consulate.

On Sunday, US President Donald Trump said it would issue “powerful consequences” for Saudi Arabia over fears that Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi may have been murdered.

However that would be highly damaging to the United States, an unnamed Saudi government source was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as warning.

Mr Khashoggi, a US resident and Saudi Arabian citizen whose writings have been critical of the Middle Eastern country, particularly its Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Turkey’s government believes he was murdered inside the building and his body removed. Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied the allegation.

When asked by 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl as to whether he believed the missing journalist could have been killed in the consulate, Mr Trump said “yes”, adding that he “would be very upset and angry if that were the case”.

In an opinion piece, Turki Aldakhil, general manager of Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, said any economic sanctions by the US would skyrocket oil prices to $200 a barrel and inadvertently “stab its own economy to death”.

“If US sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world,” Mr Aldakhil wrote.

“There are simple procedures, that are part of over 30 others, that Riyadh will implement directly, without flinching an eye if sanctions are imposed,” he said.

President Donald Trump holds a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March. Photo: AAP

According to the unnamed government official, Washington would be “punishing” itself if it halted military sales to Riyadh, a key ally.

“The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations.

“The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the Kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy,” the source added.

Britain, France and Germany told Saudi Arabia they were treating the case with “the utmost seriousness” and have called for an independent investigation into the disappearance.

“There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and – if relevant – to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account,” the foreign ministers from the three countries said in a joint statement.

“We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi government to provide a complete and detailed response. We have conveyed this message directly to the Saudi authorities.”

The statement, by British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian and Germany’s Heiko Maas, made no mention of potential actions the countries might take.

The Saudi stock market lost $US33 billion of its value on Sunday amid investor worries about deteriorating international relations, one of the first signs of the economic pain that Riyadh could suffer over the affair.

US senators have triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.

The act has in the past imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials.

Anti-Saudi sentiment in the US Congress could conceivably raise pressure to pass the so-called No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, which would end sovereign immunity shielding OPEC members from US legal action.

-With AAP