Saudi Arabia softens tone awaiting Trump call

Saudi Arabia's King Salman spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Saudi and Turkish media reported.

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 6:55 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 7:26 PM

Saudi Arabia's King Salman spoke Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Saudi and Turkish media reported.

The Saudi Press Agency and the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu reported the countries are considering establishing a "working group" to discuss the Khashoggi case.

The working group, which does not yet have an official date, comes amid intense international pressure on Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and Saudi royal insider-turned-critic, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée.

His disappearance has drawn international condemnation and sparked warnings from US President Donald Trump on Saturday of "severe punishment" if the Saudis are found to be behind his death. Britain, France and Germany also said on Sunday they were demanding a "credible investigation."

In what appeared to be a coordinated response, a number of Arab countries gave their support to Saudi Arabia. Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt all put out statements on Sunday saying they express solidarity with Saudi Arabia. The Palestinian Authority also put out a statement of support.

Saudi Arabia came out swinging early Sunday, threatening to retaliate and spelling out the ways in which Riyadh would punish the US if it imposed sanctions.

In a statement Sunday on the official Saudi Press Agency attributed to "an official," the kingdom rejected any threats of economic sanctions or political pressure and said it would "respond with greater action."

Strongly worded op-ed

In a strongly worded op-ed published later on Sunday, Turki Aldakhil, general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, warned that if the US imposed sanctions on Riyadh "it will stab its own economy to death," cause oil prices to reach as high as $200 a barrel, lead Riyadh to permit a Russian military base in the city of Tabuk and drive the Middle East into the arms of Iran.

"The information circulating within decision-making circles within the kingdom have gone beyond the rosy language used in the statement," Aldakhil wrote, referring to the earlier comment.

"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.

"If US sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world," he added.

He warned that any sanctions would lead to the kingdom's "failure to commit" to specific levels of oil production and "if the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure."

Aldakhil later said on his official Twitter account that the op-ed piece was his personal opinion and not the official position of Saudi Arabia's government.

"I noticed that some people are connecting this article of mine with the Saudi government's official position. This is not true, it is my personal opinion," he wrote.

Faisal bin Farhan, a senior adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC, said on his official Twitter account Sunday that the op-ed "did not reflect the thinking of the Saudi leadership."

The Saudi Embassy in Washington offered a milder statement in a tweet on Sunday.

"To help clarify recently issued Saudi statement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its appreciation to all, including the US administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation," the statement said.

The Saudi warnings came after the country's stock market fell as much as 7% on Sunday amid fears of sanctions. The index recovered some ground later to close 3.5% down. The losses wiped out all the market's gains in 2018, although it is still up 8% from a year ago. None of the statements mentioned Khashoggi by name, or provided any further clues into what happened to the journalist.

Growing isolation

In a joint statement later Sunday, the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany said "light must be shed" on Khashoggi's disappearance.

"Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP [Federica] Mogherini and UNSG [Antonio] Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. 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 statement said.

"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."

Separately, British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Sunday urged Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi at the consulate, saying, "if they have got nothing to hide, then they will and should cooperate."

"If, as they say, this terrible murder didn't happen, then where is Jamal Khashoggi? That's what the world wants to know," Hunt told UK Pool.

In the diplomatic fallout over Khashoggi's disappearance, international firms are pulling out of a high-profile investment summit due to take place later this month in Riyadh.

Among those who said they would not be attending the conference was the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, a spokesperson confirmed Sunday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday declined to confirm whether US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would still be attending the Future Investment Initiative conference being hosted by the Saudi Crown Prince -- known as "Davos in the desert" -- later this month.

"I think we need to continue to evaluate the facts and we'll make that decision -- I talked to Secretary Mnuchin about it last night, we'll be taking a look at it through the rest of the week," Pompeo, alongside President Trump, told reporters in the Oval Office on Saturday.

A US senior administration official said that the US hasn't really dealt much with the Turks on the Khashoggi investigation yet because American officials, including the embassy staff, mostly focused last week on getting American pastor Andrew Brunson home.

Now that Brunson is back in the US, and everyone is coming back to work on Monday, the official said the US is expecting some information from the Turks. The US also still hasn't heard anything from the Saudis, and are waiting for some information about what happened, the official said.

Doubts are also growing over whether British Trade Secretary Liam Fox will attend the Riyadh conference, the BBC reported Sunday citing diplomatic sources.

A spokesman for the UK's international trade department told CNN that Fox's diary was not yet finalized for the week of the conference.

Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi's disappearance and possible killing. At least some of them appear to have high-level connections in the Saudi government.

On Friday, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

Saudi Arabia firmly denies any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and says he left the consulate that afternoon.

Fiancée describes heartbreak over 'lonely patriot'

Khashoggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz revealed how the couple spent their last hours together, writing that "tyrants eventually pay for their sins," in a New York Times article on Saturday.

Cengiz, a doctoral student at a university in Istanbul, wrote: "If the allegations are true, and Jamal has been murdered by the errand boys of Mohammed bin Salman, he is already a martyr."

Cengiz said in the article that Khashoggi had been "cheerful" on the morning they traveled together to the consulate, and that the couple had made plans for the rest of their day.

"We were going to browse appliances for our new home and meet with our friends and family members over dinner," she wrote. "When we arrived at the consulate, he went right in. He told me to alert the Turkish authorities if I did not hear from him soon."

The heartfelt article, which described how the pair met at a conference in Istanbul in May and bonded over their "shared passion for democracy, human rights and freedom of expression" was published on Khashoggi's birthday, Cengiz said.

"I had planned a party, inviting his closest friends to surround him with the love and warmth that he had missed," she wrote. "We would have been married now."

Cengiz said Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia with two suitcases for the US "amid a crackdown on intellectuals and activists who criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."

But rather than a dissident, he saw himself as a patriot "using his pen for the good of his country," she said.

Cengiz added that she had seen reports President Trump wanted to invite her to the White House. But she said, "If he makes a genuine contribution to the efforts to reveal what happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that day, I will consider accepting his invitation."

The US President said Friday he had not yet spoken with King Salman of Saudi Arabia -- the father of bin Salman -- in the wake of Khashoggi's reported killing, but that he planned to "pretty soon."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 118322

Reported Deaths: 3591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21502767
Lake10688323
Elkhart6707111
St. Joseph6619113
Allen6330205
Hamilton4938109
Vanderburgh378131
Hendricks2766124
Monroe265536
Tippecanoe256613
Johnson2352124
Clark225957
Porter219947
Delaware200162
Cass19559
Vigo186827
Madison170375
LaPorte149141
Floyd139664
Warrick138242
Howard132663
Kosciusko125917
Bartholomew118457
Marshall101524
Dubois99919
Boone99146
Grant95134
Hancock94643
Noble93132
Henry81226
Jackson7739
Wayne77014
Morgan73438
Daviess68028
Shelby68029
Dearborn67528
LaGrange64011
Clinton62314
Harrison59224
Putnam58411
Gibson5355
Knox5289
Lawrence51629
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48811
White48714
Decatur45939
Miami4394
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper4012
Scott39011
Steuben3907
Posey3460
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31325
Clay3085
Ripley3078
Orange28824
Whitley2826
Carroll27813
Adams2763
Wabash2728
Starke2717
Washington2701
Wells2674
Spencer2633
Jefferson2503
Huntington2473
Fulton2442
Tipton22822
Randolph2238
Perry22113
Jay1920
Newton17411
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1641
Rush1574
Vermillion1310
Fountain1292
Blackford1213
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
Parke1072
Brown1043
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren411
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 151802

Reported Deaths: 4746
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin27119607
Cuyahoga17554656
Hamilton13237315
Montgomery7938164
Lucas7343364
Butler6085111
Summit5366252
Warren311549
Marion311147
Mahoning3095281
Stark2913175
Pickaway267944
Lorain233386
Delaware230621
Fairfield213253
Licking194963
Columbiana194080
Wood192172
Trumbull1916132
Clark183940
Clermont174423
Lake164851
Greene149034
Medina147539
Miami146351
Allen146269
Portage116866
Mercer113218
Erie95947
Tuscarawas94120
Wayne94068
Richland92219
Ross89624
Madison84312
Darke80643
Geauga72649
Athens7242
Belmont72427
Hancock72010
Lawrence67122
Ashtabula66048
Shelby66010
Putnam61923
Auglaize6119
Sandusky58020
Huron5557
Union5512
Scioto5167
Seneca48814
Ottawa47130
Preble44515
Muskingum4383
Holmes3959
Jefferson3384
Henry33414
Defiance33012
Champaign3133
Logan3133
Clinton30213
Perry3009
Brown2922
Knox28815
Washington26223
Jackson2616
Morrow2612
Fulton2591
Hardin25713
Crawford2476
Ashland2464
Coshocton23411
Fayette2336
Highland2303
Williams2143
Wyandot21312
Pike2020
Gallia19613
Meigs17610
Guernsey1738
Hocking1679
Carroll1527
Adams1364
Van Wert1243
Monroe11018
Paulding1100
Harrison643
Morgan500
Vinton473
Noble340
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 61°
Angola
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Overcast
60° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 60°
Decatur
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 63°
Van Wert
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 63°
Few Showers Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events