Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Pompeo meets Saudi leaders, cancels Kuwait visit

Source AP Source AP
Steven Clarke | 14 January, 2019, 18:40

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday arrived in Riyadh, where he is set to ask Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ensure the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are held accountable.

"So, he definitely has to mention Jamal Khashoggi, and he has to show that the United States is concerned with that, but I think they [the Trump administration] are much more on the same line [as the Saudis] - they don't want the Saudi crown prince [Mohammed bin Salman] to be hurt by this affair", said Majed.

He said the Saudis reiterated their pledges to pursue the case wherever it leads, but would not comment on United States intelligence suggesting the crown prince may have ordered the killing himself.

Khashoggi, a contributor to Middle East Eye and the Washington Post, was murdered by a team of 15 Saudi hitmen on 2 October, shortly after entering the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

The top U.S. diplomat, on an extensive Middle East tour, embarked on his second politically sensitive visit to Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi's October 2 murder inside its Istanbul consulate sparked an worldwide outcry.

Pompeo said he believed he had been successful in explaining Trump's position despite a lack of detail on exactly how and when the withdrawal will take place and differences with Turkey over the fate of US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters after American forces leave.

Pompeo's visit to Saudi Arabia is part of an extensive eight-day trip to Amman, Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, and finally Kuwait City.

"We spoke about human rights issues here in Saudi Arabia, women activists", the top U.S. diplomat said.

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In protest over the president's handling of the matter, the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan resolution that put the blame for the killing of Khashoggi squarely on the Saudi crown prince. The Trump administration has been adamant that there is no established connection to Saudi's crown prince in the killing.

Hathloul's sister, Loujain, is among more than a dozen activists arrested last May - just before the historic lifting of Saudi Arabia's decades-long ban on women drivers.

They also agreed that a comprehensive political solution is the only way to end the conflict.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all USA allies, began a boycott of Qatar over a political dispute in June 2017 that continues today. The four countries also issued several demands, insisting that Qatar must shut down the Al-Jazeera TV Channel, reduce ties with Iran and close a Turkish military base in the country.

"As for the GCC. we are all more powerful when we're working together when we have common challenges in the region and around the world", Pompeo said.

Pompeo met Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani Sunday during his visit to Doha, where he refused to comment on reports Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran.

In Doha on Sunday, Pompeo made similar remarks but said that while the United States could try to play peacemaker, it is ultimately up to the countries involved to resolve the situation.

Attempts at mediation have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of United States envoy Anthony Zinni. "Qatar's offers to fund capital expenditures and sustainment affords the possibility of a more enduring US presence", the joint statement issued following the second US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue read.

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