Saudi crown prince says ‘heinous’ Khashoggi murder cannot be justified

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has called the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, addressing the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, said separately that the killing will not “drive a wedge” between the kingdom and Turkey.

Turkish officials say a 15-man Saudi team killed the writer at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. A member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage was allegedly at the consulate at the time.

International business leaders have pulled out from attending the summit over the killing.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly spoke by phone with Prince Mohammed just before he arrived with other Arab leaders at the summit.

Prince Mohammed immediately addressed the killing after taking to the stage.

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi was critical of Prince Mohammed bin Salman (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

He also promised Saudi-Turkish relations would not be hurt.

“We know that many are trying to use this painful thing to create a kind of wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” he said. “I want to send them a message: They will not be able to do that as long as there is king called King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.”

Mr Erdogan focused in again on Wednesday on Mr Khashoggi’s death.

“We are determined not to allow the murder to be covered up and for those responsible — from the person who gave the order to those who executed it — not to escape justice,” he said in the capital, Ankara.

The announcement of the call came just before Prince Mohammed, Bahrain’s crown prince and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri walked into the Riyadh summit.

Prince, Mohammed talks to Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Future Investment Initiative summit
Prince, Mohammed talks to Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Future Investment Initiative summit (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Turkish officials say the 15 men comprised a Saudi hit squad that included a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage on overseas trips. Saudi Arabia has suggested, without offering evidence, that the team went rogue.

With the crown prince’s standing marred, his ability to draw needed investment to the kingdom could be affected.

Economists say Saudi Arabia will need trillions of dollars in investments to create millions of new jobs for young Saudis entering the workforce in coming years. The investment forum is aimed at attracting investors to help underwrite that effort.

The event’s first day saw several speakers acknowledge the killing of the Saudi writer whose columns criticized the crown prince’s crackdown on dissent. Dozens of Saudi activists, writers, clerics and even women who were behind calls for the right to drive have been detained.

At one summit session, Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih described Mr Khashoggi’s slaying as “abhorrent”.

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