Saudia Arabia rejected “threats” and international pressure Sunday over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and vowed to retaliate if hit with sanctions.
“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations,” the Saudi Arabia’s official press agency said in a statement on Sunday.
“The kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, went missing on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to obtain paperwork to get married. Security camera footage has showed him entering the consulate and Saudi officials haven’t been able to produce evidence that he ever left.
According to The Post, the Turkish government told U.S. officials that it has recordings of Khashoggi being detained, interrogated, tortured, and murdered by Saudi security. Turkish authorities reportedly have not had access to the consulate, despite assurances from Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who said “we have “nothing to hide.”
So far, the international community has been firm with Saudi Arabia. Western businesses — including groups in Washington where Riyadh has strong allies — have distanced themselves from the Gulf nation. At least one firm that lobbies for Saudi interests in the U.S. ended its contract, while several others, including the New York Times, canceled their participation at a Saudi-sponsored investor conference where Prince Mohammed will speak this month.
Meanwhile, German, French and British foreign ministers issued a joint statement Sunday calling for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The Trump administration, however, is sending mixed messages. While some Republicans have been vocal about Saudi Arabia being responsible for Khashoggi’s alleged death, the president has expressed skepticism, saying “what happened is a terrible thing — assuming that happened.”
In a 60 Minutes interview airing Sunday night, Trump vowed “severe punishment” if Riyadh did kill Khashoggi. But in the same interview, he continues to express skepticism that Saudi Arabia is responsible and defended a $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh.
The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour noted that the continuing controversy over the fate of Khashoggi and the accompanying diplomatic fallout comes “as the Riyadh stock market had its biggest fall in years.”