KUWAIT/WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL: Kuwait hailed yesterday decisions taken by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia regarding the case of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi. An official source at the foreign ministry said in a statement that Kuwait has followed with concern the death of Khashoggi, may Allah bless his soul. The source added that Kuwait “greets the decisions that have been taken by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud with respect of the case, which depicts the kingdom’s keenness and commitment to establish the truth and its respect for legal principles to bring to account those behind this regretful event”.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said yesterday the kingdom did not know where the body of Khashoggi was, despite admitting to the killing and calling it a “tremendous mistake”. Speaking in an interview on Fox News, Jubeir said the Saudi leadership initially believed Khashoggi had left its diplomatic mission in Istanbul, where he was last seen on Oct 2. But following “reports we were getting from Turkey”, Saudi authorities began an investigation, which discovered “he was killed in the consulate”.

“We don’t know, in terms of details, how. We don’t know where the body is,” Jubeir said, adding that the Saudi public prosecutor had ordered the detention of 18 individuals, “the first step in a long journey”. He termed the killing a “tremendous mistake” but one which the US-Saudi relationship would eventually overcome. “The individuals who did this, did this outside the scope of their authority. There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” Jubeir said.

“That is unacceptable in any government. These things unfortunately happen. We want to make sure that those who are responsible are punished, and we want to make sure we have procedures in place to prevent it from happening again.” Jubeir insisted, however, that the operation was not ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “This was an operation that was a rogue operation, this was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding their authorities and responsibilities they had; they made a mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it,” he said.
A growing chorus of US lawmakers including several from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party have criticized the Saudi leadership over the affair, but Jubeir was confident the US-Saudi relationship would survive the crisis. “The strategic relationship is important for both countries,” he said. “I believe when the investigation is over and the facts are revealed, people know who is responsible and see those individuals punished, that the relationship will weather this.” He added that King Salman was “determined to see this investigation through, determined to ascertain the facts, determined to hold those responsible accountable and determined to put in place policies and procedures in the security services to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday vowed to reveal within days the “naked truth” over the death of Khashoggi. Erdogan, whose ties to Saudi Arabia appear to have further soured over the Khashoggi case, said he would reveal the findings of his country’s investigation into the killing in the coming days. “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul. Erdogan is expected to make a full statement to his party’s MPs in parliament tomorrow. “Why did the 15 men come here? Why were the 18 people arrested? That should be explained in all its details,” said Erdogan.

Erdogan has so far stopped short of making strong statements on the case, often referring to a prosecutor’s investigation into the killing. Analysts see this as an attempt to avoid provoking a full rupture of relations with Saudi Arabia. As the Turkish leader is expected to reveal all details into the journalist’s killing, Trump stepped back from his stance that Saudi Arabia’s latest explanation over the death was credible amid mounting pressure back at home.

“Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” he said of the accounts of Khashoggi’s death offered by Riyadh. “Their stories are all over the place.” Trump emphasized as he has before how important the US-Saudi relationship is to Washington’s regional strategic goals. He described the 33-year-old prince, widely known as MBS, as a “strong person; he has very good control”. “He’s seen as a person who can keep things under check,” added Trump. “I mean that in a positive way.” – Agencies