WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump said on Friday that Saudi Arabia’s claim that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had died in a fight inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul was credible.
Trump, speaking from Arizona, added that the arrest of 18 people by Riyadh in connection with the death of the US-based Saudi journalist was a good first step.
“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancee and friends,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Friday.
The US also announced that it would closely follow the different international investigations into what it described as a tragic incident.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was last seen on Oct. 2 when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.
Two weeks after the disappearance of the journalist, and a global outcry, Riyadh admitted that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate.
Turkish and American media had reported that Ankara had proof that Khashoggi, a known critic of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the consulate by Saudi agents.
As calls grew in the US for sanctions on Saudi Arabia over the incident, Trump had asserted that he did not think the Saudi leaders had lied to him during their recent talks, and was opposed to any cancelation of arms contracts with Riyadh.
Trump had said that the Congress would play an important role in deciding US response to Saudi Arabia over the death of Khashoggi, adding that they would also need to take into account that Saudi Arabia was a rich country with $450 billion worth of promised purchases and investments.