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Trump strongly defends ties with Saudi, despite murder case

By Sheetal Sukhija, Mid East News
21 Nov 2018, 07:19 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - Even though the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to face intense international condemnation over the murder of the veteran journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S. President Donald Trump has refused to directly blame the nation.

Days after a bombshell report revealed that the top U.S. intelligence agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes that Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was to blame for the killing of the Saudi journalist, Trump called the CIA assessment very premature.

Then, on Tuesday, Trump defended ties with Saudi Arabia further and said that the kingdom is a "steadfast partner" that has agreed to invest "a record amount of money" in the U.S.

While Trump acknowledged that the Crown Prince "could very well" have known about Khashoggi's murder, he touted the business and military ties with the Gulf state.

Trump pointed out, "[It] could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't! In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Trump pointed out that Saudi Arabia was a key ally of the U.S. against Iran and said in his statement, "The world is a very dangerous place!"

He further pointed out that the kingdom spent "billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism" whereas Iran has "killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East."

Trump also stressed in his statement that Saudi investment pledges and arms purchases and said, "If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries."

However, while Trump admitted that the murder of Khashoggi was "terrible," he also said that "We may never know all of the facts" about his death.

The U.S. President said, "The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region."

Trump's statement came a day after he said in an interview with Fox News that he would never listen to the recording of Khashoggi's murder that had been provided to Washington by Turkey.

He called it a "suffering tape," and refused to listen to the recording that Turkey claims offers proof of who might have issued the orders for the murder of the veteran journalist.

The murder of a 59-year-old Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, dominated headlines through much of last month.

Turkey has previously presented evidence of Khashoggi's killing to several countries and has publicly alleged that a 15-man Saudi 'hit squad' carried out the murder in Istanbul based on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government.

Meanwhile, Saudi has blamed the murder on 'rogue elements' as it desperately tries to defend the Kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that the Kingdom's prosecutors had indicted 11 suspects over Khashoggi's murder and sought the death penalty for five of them.

The Kingdom also released a sequence of events that led to Khashoggi's murder and the eventual disposal of his body - an explanation that Turkey rejected and one that led to the U.S. issuing sanctions on 17 Saudis, including some of the murder suspects.

Khashoggi was not only a prominent critic of some of Saudi's policies, but also specifically and repeatedly criticized the vision laid out for the country by the young and popular Crown Prince.

Turkey has continued to demand that the suspects be tried in a Turkish court observed by international human rights groups.

The U.S. and many other countries in the West meanwhile, have continued to express shock and have vowed to punish those involved.

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