Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Minister Trade and Export Growth David Parker have said that the New Zealand government continues to condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives.
Arrests and dismissals
The death of the prominent journalist in the Turkish Consulate General in Istanbul has now been officially confirmed by the Saudi Arabian government.
Saudi authorities have arrested 18 Saudi nationals and have dismissed several senior officials following an initial investigation of the Khashoggi case.
“With the confirmation of the death we express our deepest condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and friends. Those responsible for his death must be held accountable. While this is an important admission, the killing by government operatives is deeply disturbing. Many questions remain unanswered,” Mr Peters said.
“We look forward to the results of the investigation being led by Turkey and we urge Saudi Arabia to implement its undertaking to participate openly and transparently in that investigation,” he said.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade officials met with the Saudi Embassy in Wellington on Tuesday to raise New Zealand’s concerns over Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and have reiterated to the Saudi Embassy the need for the investigation to be full and transparent.
FTA talks stalled
Mr Parker said that as previously noted no New Zealand officials will attend the upcoming Future Investment Initiative (‘Davos in the Desert’) event in Riyadh.
“As for the trading relationship in the region the FTA talks remain stalled pending the Gulf Cooperation Council resolving their dispute with Qatar, which we do not expect to be resolved in the near future. And the widely criticised Saudi sheep deal was an arrangement made by the previous government with a private sector partner, not with the Saudi Government,” he said.
The New Zealand government is awaiting the outcome of the Turkish investigation and is keeping all options for next steps under review.
The Economist reported:
Eighteen Saudis have been arrested, and five senior officials sacked. One was Ahmed Al Assiri, a Deputy Intelligence Chief rumoured for days to be a possible scapegoat.
More significant is the sacking of Saud Al Qahtani, the belligerent Media Adviser to the powerful Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Little known outside the region, Mr Qahtani looms large in the Gulf, using social media to launch acerbic attacks on critics. He kept a blacklist of troublesome journalists and marshalled an electronic army of Twitter trolls that Saudi dissidents dubbed ‘The flies.’
Both men are close to Prince Mohammed. They are not known as freelancers.
“I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of the King and the Crown Prince,” Mr Qahtani tweeted last year.
Saudi FM explains
The death of Khashoggi was the result of a “rogue operation” by people acting beyond the scope of their authority, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said.
“This is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible tragedy,” he said, offering sympathy to the Khashoggi family. “Our condolences go out to them. We feel their pain. I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable.
“The individuals did this out of the scope of their authority,” Al Jubeir told Fox News in the US, and none of those involved had close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed.
Conflicting reports about whether Khashoggi had left the Consulate prompted the investigation, and Saudi Arabia would continue to provide information on the case “as it becomes available,” Al-Jubeir said.
Separately, an unidentified Saudi official told Reuters that the initial account of Khashoggi’s disappearance had been based on “false information reported internally at the time.”
“Once it became clear these initial mission reports were false, the government launched an internal investigation and refrained from further public comment,” the official said.
Please read our Leader, ‘Why Journalism has become a deadly profession,’ under Viewlink.
Picture of Jamal Khashoggi from Wikipedia