Pompeo: Saudis assured me of accountability for Khashoggi murder

RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Saudi leaders assured him everyone responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be held accountable, as Riyadh tries to resolve its biggest political crisis in a generation.

Pompeo told reporters he had also raised a number of human rights issues with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including women’s rights activists who have been detained for months and some allegedly tortured.

Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of the crown prince, was killed in October in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, prompting a global outcry including Treasury sanctions on 17 individuals and a U.S. Senate resolution blaming Prince Mohammed.

A CIA assessment has blamed the crown prince for ordering the killing, which Saudi officials deny. At least 21 Saudis have been detained in the case, with five facing the death penalty. Five officials were also fired, including a senior royal advisor.

“They both acknowledged that accountability needed to take place. They talked about the process that is occurring inside their country, both the investigative process and the judicial process that is taking place,” Pompeo said.

“They reiterated their commitment to achieve the objective, the expectations we set for them.”

The outcry over Khashoggi’s murder has strained ties with Western allies and focused attention on Saudi Arabia’s domestic crackdown on dissent and the nearly four-year-old war in Yemen.

During meetings that lasted about 80 minutes total, Pompeo said he had spoken with Saudi leaders about women’s rights activists detained last summer and accused of treason.

“Their commitment was that the lawful judicial process would take place and they would do so quickly, and that they would continue down that path,” he told reporters.

On Yemen, Pompeo and Prince Mohammed agreed on the need for continued de-escalation and adherence to agreements made last month at talks in Sweden to end the civil war between the Saudi-backed government and the Iranian-aligned Houthis.

“We talked about the fact that work done in Sweden on Yemen was good but we need both sides to honor those commitments. To date, the Iranian-backed Houthis have chosen not to do that,” he said.

Pompeo, whose earlier stops included Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Doha, will cut short the rest of his Middle East trip to attend a family funeral, a State Department spokesman said. He will return home after meetings in Oman instead of traveling on to Kuwait.

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Pompeo meets Saudi leaders, cancels Kuwait visit

RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince in Riyadh on Monday, but will cut short the rest of his Middle East trip to attend a family funeral, a State Department spokesman said.

Pompeo will return home after meetings in Oman instead of traveling on to Kuwait, deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said. U.S. officials said the death was in the family of his wife, who accompanied him on the trip and will return with him.

The top U.S. diplomat met separately with King Salman for 35 minutes and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for another 45 minutes, according to reporters traveling with him.

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh tweeted that Pompeo and the crown prince had agreed on the need for a continued de-escalation in Yemen and adherence to agreements made last month at talks in Sweden to end a nearly four-year civil war between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Iranian-aligned Houthis.

Pompeo has said he would also discuss the investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, but no details of that discussion were immediately available.

A CIA assessment has blamed Prince Mohammed for ordering the killing of Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of the crown prince, though Saudi officials deny the prince ordered the murder.

The killing has sparked the kingdom’s worst political crisis in a generation, strained ties with Western allies including the United States, and focused attention on Prince Mohammed’s domestic crackdown on dissent and the war in Yemen.

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North Korea postponed meeting with Pompeo because 'they weren't ready': Haley

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korean officials postponed a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that had been scheduled for this week because they were not ready, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters on Thursday.

“North Korea said they needed to postpone it for whatever reason,” she said. “Secretary Pompeo was ready to come. We continue to stand ready to talk but I don’t think that there was some major issue. I have talked with the administration and basically what we’re looking at is they postponed it because they weren’t ready.”

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