Yemen, Iran, Khashoggi murder top Pompeo’s talks in Saudi Arabia

Clay Curtis
January 14, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince have reaffirmed their commitment to hold the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi accountable.

The Washington Post columnist's slaying by a Saudi hit squad prompted global outrage, especially among U.S. media outlets and politicians.

Pompeo, who spoke to reporters after meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, said he had received a commitment from the country's leaders to achieve justice in the case. He also met the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, before heading to Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo's visit came as human rights groups have been calling on Saudi Arabia to provide independent worldwide monitors access to detained female prisoners amid mounting reports of torture and sexual harassment in Saudi prisons. He released a statement saying, "Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

The US, CIA and Turkish officials have blamed the crown prince for the killing, which Saudi authorities categorically deny.

"Today, the Iranian-backed Houthis have chosen not to do that", he said. But Prince Mohammed, whose right-hand aides were allegedly involved in the murder, was exonerated by prosecutors.

During meetings lasting 80 minutes total, Pompeo said he had raised human rights issues, including several women's rights activists detained last summer and accused of treason.

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

Loujain Al-Hathloul was detained previous year in Saudi Arabia.

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During his visit to Qatar, Pompeo refused to comment on reports Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran.

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

"It diminishes our ability to all work together", he said of the spat that began in June 2017 with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates boycotting of Qatar, alleging it funds extremist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran.

Washington has also welcomed "Qatar's generous offer to expand critical facilities at bases used by USA forces in the country and to align operating procedures at these bases with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation standards, thereby increasing the operational capability of U.S. and coalition forces based in Qatar".

'Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful'.

However, Pompeo later admitted in a Q&A session with U.S. embassy staff in Doha that no progress was made on resolving the issue.

Mediation efforts by the United States, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of USA envoy Anthony Zinni.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Sunday that he had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Qatar regarding the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts thousands of US military personnel and the forward headquarters of the US military's Central Command.

For Washington, turning the page on the crisis is essential for the successful launch of the Strategic Alliance of the Middle East (MESA), a NATO-style security pact that includes Gulf countries as well as Egypt and Jordan.

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