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Saudi Crown Prince promised justice for the journalist's death



RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as abhorrent and made a conciliatory tone with Turkey in his most determined attempt to go beyond the crisis and the tense relations with the US and Ankara to improve.

In his first public remarks on the death of Mr. Khashoggi on October 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Prince Mohammed pledged to work with the Turkish authorities as his kingdom is fighting a worldwide backlash on the murder.

The comments and a phone call between the 33-year-old Prince and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed to suppress a growing diplomatic storm while Turkish officials kidnapped the Saudi Arabian leadership in the murder of journalists by media leaks implied.

"The incident that took place is very painful for all Saudis," said Prince Mohammed at a conference in Riyadh. "It's an ugly incident and totally unjustifiable."

President Trump said he left the responsibility to Congress for having reacted to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey. WSJ Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty

A Western official on the Persian Gulf said that Prince Mohammed delivered a message: "The Turks and we can find an agreement."

"They had no choice," the official said, referring to the Saudis. "They are in a corner and they must be conciliatory, they can not afford to fight back."

The US has taken diplomatic measures, including the lifting of visas against 21

Saudi officials, whom it believes to be fighting back involved in the assassination of the journalist. Further penalties could follow, including financial sanctions that apply to human rights violators, a possibility that has been raised by US lawmakers.

The Prince said he will not let the incident between Turkey, one of the region's most powerful, "force" – and Saudi Arabia. "This wedge will not take place," he said, sitting on a panel of the Future Investment Initiative, a Saudi economic conference titled "Davos in the Desert." Many Western leaders boycotted the incident over the death of Mr. Khashoggi.

Prince Mohammed also met Mr. Khashoggi's son Salah on Tuesday to offer his condolences.

After Mr. Khashoggi left the kingdom last year, the Saudi government banned his son from leaving the country. It was not known if the government lifted the travel ban on the son after his father's death.

The Crown Prince said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia would work with the Turkish authorities to close the investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice. "We will prove to the world that both governments are working together to punish every criminal and perpetrator, and that justice will ultimately take its course," he said.

In their phone conversation, Prince Mohammed and Erdogan discussed the necessary steps Two countries would jointly address the case of Mr. Khashoggi, according to a Saudi government statement and Turkish state media. Comments by Prince Mohammed came after Mr Erdogan had objected to Saudi statements on Tuesday that Khashoggi had been accidentally killed in a brawl at the consulate, where he raised his strongest allegations against the Saudi authorities

President Trump said that he would Pressure on Prince Mohammed could not continue to exploit.

"He leads things, and if there were anyone, he would be," he told The Wall Street Journal.

The Trump administration has pushed for Mr. Khashoggi's death while defending the US-Saudi relationship.

A US official said Prince Mohammed appeared in his Wednesday bill to attempt to steer between a recognition of international condemnation and a signal of confidence in his place as the adopted successor of his father.

While Saudi royal family members have served in the US, they recognize how serious the problem is. Those close to the prince in Saudi Arabia are "safer," the official said.

The State Department did not respond to the public performance of Prince Mohammed. Meanwhile, Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel, who traveled to Turkey this week as part of an administrative investigation, is expected to return to Washington on Thursday.

The Khashoggi crisis has become the latest focus between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to compete for influence in the Middle East. Tensions have risen after Turkey supported Qatar last year after Saudi Arabia and its closest allies broke off diplomatic relations and launched an economic embargo on the tiny emirate.

They also disagree on Turkey's sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood's powerful Islamist movement, which views Saudi Arabia as a terrorist organization

Prince Mohammed praised Wednesday in a sign that Saudi Arabia's harsh stance on Qatar could give way the country's economy said in a statement by the Saudi Ministry of Information "A powerful message about regional unity".

  Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (left) and United Arab Emirates Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed (right) attend the second day of a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (left) and the UAE Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed (right), attend the SEC on the day of a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday.


Photo:

Amr Nabil / Associated Press

There is no indication that the Saudi monarch is ready to push his son aside, despite a Turkish pressure campaign that produced evidence to maximize the damage done to the kingdom. Mr Erdogan demanded on Tuesday that senior officials should also be held accountable.

The Saudi government has repeatedly claimed that Prince Mohammed did not know about the operation, and King Salman had ordered his son to overhaul Saudi Arabia's intelligence service to have no direct effect. So far, the Saudi authorities arrested 18 men in connection with the death and released two high-ranking officials near the Crown Prince.

Since Prince Mohammed was catapulted to a position of near unsurpassed authority with his father's accession to the throne in 2015

he vowed to redesign Saudi Arabia's economy by reducing its reliance on oil revenues and fueling social change, including an end to the ban on driving for women. He also oversaw some risky foreign policy moves, including a war in Yemen and a blockade on neighboring Qatar, as well as apparent efforts to force Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation.

On Wednesday the Prince took over the stage An Hariri, in a declaration of confidence

In Saudi Arabia, Hariri came back last year under pressure from the Saudi government, a longtime patron of the Hariri family. He later revoked his resignation after France and other Western countries intervened.

The incident sparked allegations that the Saudi government had effectively kidnapped Mr. Hariri to force him to resign.

"Prime Minister Saad will be here in pairs for two days, so please, no rumors that he was kidnapped," joked Prince Mohammed at the end of the panel discussion.

Write to Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com


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