Saudis reject threats amid concern over journalist missing in Turkey

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Saudi Arabia has warned it will respond to any “threats” against it following President Donald Trump’s warning of “severe punishment” over the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

President Trump made a point of visiting the kingdom on his first overseas trip as president and has touted arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

But both the White House and the kingdom are under mounting pressure as concern grows over the fate of the veteran journalist, who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Turkey Saudi Arabia Missing Writer
Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

“The kingdom also affirms that if it is [targeted by] any action, it will respond with greater action.”

The statement came after the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh dropped by 7% at one point during the week’s first day of trading, with 182 of its 186 listed stocks showing losses by the early afternoon.

Turkish officials say they fear Saudi agents killed and dismembered Mr Khashoggi after he entered the consulate, saying they have audio and video recordings of it that they have not released.

The kingdom has called the allegations “baseless”, but has offered no evidence the writer ever left the consulate.

In an interview to be aired Sunday, President Trump told CBS’ 60 Minutes show that the consequences of Saudi Arabia being involved would be “severe”.

“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we’re going to have to see,” President Trump said.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”

However, President Trump in the same interview said: “As of this moment, they deny it and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. But Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance, and suspicions he may have been targeted over his criticism of the crown prince, have led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of an upcoming high-profile investment conference in Riyadh.

President Trump also said “we would be punishing ourselves” by cancelling arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which his administration touted on his first overseas trip.

The sale is a “tremendous order for our companies”, and if the kingdom does not buy its weaponry from the United States, they will buy it from others, he said.

President Trump said he would meet with Mr Khashoggi’s family.

Mr Khashoggi, who was considered close to the Saudi royal family, had become a critic of the current government and Prince Mohammed, the 33-year-old heir apparent who has shown little tolerance for criticism.

As a contributor to the Post, Mr Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

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