Germany’s chancellor has demanded “transparency” from Riyadh over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the EU foreign policy chief called it a “shocking violation” of international conventions as western condemnation grows over Saudi Arabia’s handling of the affair.
Angela Merkel and her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, issued a joint statement on Saturday, saying “the information provided about the sequence of events in the consulate in Istanbul isn’t sufficient”.
Saudi Arabia said on Friday that Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” inside its Istanbul consulate – Riyadh’s first acknowledgement of his death after two weeks of denials that it was involved in his disappearance on 2 October.
Merkel and Maas said they “condemned the crime in the sharpest possible manner”, adding that they expected “transparency from Saudi Arabia about the circumstances of [Khashoggi’s] death and the background”. They said “those responsible must be held to account”.
During a party conference in the eastern state of Thuringia on Saturday, Merkel referred briefly to Saudi Arabia and “the terrible events” surrounding Khashoggi’s death, saying “still nothing has been cleared up”. She added: “Of course we are demanding that they be cleared up”.
Maas has also called into question the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. He told German public broadcaster ARD on Saturday that “as long as these investigations continue, as long as we don’t know what happened there, there’s no basis for reaching positive decisions on arms exports to Saudi Arabia”.
The European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation.
“The emerging circumstances of Jamal Khashoggi’s death are deeply troubling, including the shocking violation of the 1963 Vienna convention on consular relations,” Mogherini said.
“Therefore the European Union, like its partners, insists on the need for continued thorough, credible and transparent investigation, shedding proper clarity on the circumstances of the killing and ensuring full accountability of all those responsible for it.”
The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said many questions remained “unanswered” and insisted “they require exhaustive and diligent investigation”.
Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said “the explanations offered to date lack consistency and credibility”.
Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said: “We deplore the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. We expect the Saudi government to cooperate fully with Turkish authorities regarding the investigation of this matter.”
The US president, Donald Trump, had said he found Saudi Arabia’s explanation about Khashoggi death as credible and termed it an “important first step”.
But asked during a trip to Nevada if he was satisfied that Saudi officials had been fired over the death, Trump, said: “No, I am not satisfied until we find the answer. But it was a big first step, it was a good first step. But I want to get to the answer.”
Trump’s comments about the Khashoggi incident in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and warning of economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks in which he has played up the country’s role as a US ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of US arms.
Britain’s Foreign Office said on Saturday: “We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps.” It added: “As the foreign secretary has said, this was a terrible act and those responsible must be held to account.”
A UN spokesman said the UN secretary general, António Guterres, was “deeply troubled” by the confirmation of Khashoggi’s death and called for a thorough and transparent investigation.