Hunt warns of ‘consequences’ if missing Saudi journalist is dead

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Jeremy Hunt has said there will be “consequences” for Britain’s relationship with Saudi Arabia if it is found that the Saudis murdered missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Foreign Secretary said the Government remains “extremely concerned” about the fate of Mr Khashoggi, who has not been seen since visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Jamal Khashoggi
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 (Johnny Green/PA)

Mr Hunt said such actions would be “totally inconsistent” with British values and what happened needs to be established as quickly as possible.

However, he indicated that any UK response would be “considered” and would take into account Britain’s strategic relationship with the Saudis.

“If the stories that we read about are true, and if you are asking me whether that will have consequences for the relationship with Saudi Arabia, then yes, of course it will,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“What is alleged to have happened is totally inconsistent with our values and what we believe in. Not just the brutality – if it happened – but also the fact that he was a journalist. Those things are completely unacceptable to the United Kingdom.

“If the stories turn out to be true, part of our reaction will depend on the Saudi reaction and whether we sense that they are taking it as seriously as we are taking it.

“Our relationship with Saudi is a strategic relationship. Our response will be considered because we have to recognise in that strategic relationship that they share intelligence with us that helps keep people safe on the streets of Britain.

“But even taking into account all those things, in the end, if these stories are true, we have to be absolutely clear it would not be consistent with our values.”

Mr Hunt’s comments came as US president Donald Trump said it “certainly looks” as though Mr Khashoggi was dead and warned of “very severe consequences” if he was found to have been murdered.

On Thursday, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox joined senior government figures from the US, France and the Netherlands in announcing he was pulling out of a high-profile Saudi investment conference, dubbed “Davos in the desert”.

It marked a further toughening of the response of the international community to the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi – a persistent critic of the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salaman.

Asked what consequence Saudi leaders would face if they are found to be responsible, Mr Trump told reporters: “It will have to be very severe. It’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens.”

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