US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has doubled down on US support for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, saying there was “no direct evidence” Mohammed bin Salman had anythin g to do with the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
His remarks followed hot on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report citing CIA sources as saying Crown Prince Mohammed sent 11 messages before and after the journalist’s October execution inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Argentina on the sidelines of the G20 summit that Khashoggi was strangled to death in seven-and-a-half minutes.
Erdogan insisted he did not want to harm the kingdom, a regional rival.
But he demanded that Saudi Arabia extradite those involved in the murder at the consulate in Istanbul and said it was in the kingdom’s best interest to disclose what exactly happened to Khashoggi.
His murder was not only an issue for Turkey, but for the entire world, he said, saying that he had shared information related to the killing with several countries, including Germany and the US.
Saudi Arabia has opened its own investigation into the murder and is seeking the death penalty for five suspects. It continues to insist it was a “rogue operation” carried out without the knowledge of the crown prince.
Pompeo told CNN he has “read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of the United States government”.
“When you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking [Mohammed] to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a accurate statement, it is an important statement, and it is the statement that we are making publicly today,” Pompeo added.