Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, arrived in Abu Dhabi on a state visit on Thursday. This is the crown prince’s first trip abroad since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Nov. 23)
WASHINGTON – Three countries have halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia while the U.S. has stuck by the kingdom after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Finland and Denmark joined Germany this week in halting all future arms sales and sending of military equipment to the Saudi government. Germany and Denmark cited the killing of Khashoggi while Finland said in a statement much of its decision was related to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
The October killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked criticism by both Republicans and Democrats and put intense pressure on President Donald Trump to criticize a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. After reports surfaced showing a CIA assessment concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, Trump said the U.S. would stick by the kingdom.
The president cited oil prices and an arms deal in his rationale. He publicly questioned the CIA’s assessment, emphasizing Salman’s denials even as the Saudi government’s account of Khashoggi’s fate has repeatedly shifted.
On Thursday, Trump said the crown prince “regretted the death more than I do” and reiterated his position that there was no conclusive evidence tying the crown prince to Khashoggi’s murder.
“The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t,” the president said.
Meanwhile, other countries have taken steps to block future arms sales with the regime over the killing and its war in Yemen, which has killed thousands, including children, and left millions at risk of starvation.
In a televised interview on Thursday, Denmark’s foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, called the Saudi regime “destructive in many fields” and said it was halting exports of military equipment because of “the continued worsening of the already terrible situation in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Samuelsen said he hoped “the Danish decision can create further momentum and get more European Union countries to support tight implementation of the E.U.’s regulatory framework in this area,” according to the Associated Press.
The AP reports in 2017, Denmark’s overall exports to Saudi Arabia were about 5.08 billion kroner, or $763 million.
Finland’s Foreign Ministry made a similar announcement, also Thursday, saying it wouldn’t allow any future arms export licenses to sell materials to the Saudi government. The country specifically cited the worsening crisis in Yemen.
“The government discussed arms export matters and decided that in the current situation there are no foundations for new arms export authorizations to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates,” Finland’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “In its deliberations, the government laid stress on the alarming humanitarian situation in Yemen, in particular.”
The two countries made their announcements after Germany urged other European nations to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia last month, according to Reuters.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in October that the country would stop all arms deals due to the conflicting statements about Khashoggi’s death. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters that the country hoped other European allies would come together and made similar pledges to put more pressure on the Saudi government.
“Because only if all European countries are in agreement, it will make an impression on the government in Riyadh,” Altmaier said. “It will not have any positive consequences if we halt arms exports but other countries at the same time fill the gap.”
Reuters reported that Germany this year had approved exporting about $462 million worth of arms materials to the Saudi government.
An analyst says President Donald Trump’s decision not to bring more penalties against Saudi Arabia over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi is “a slap in the face of the intelligence community” (Nov. 20)
In the U.S., some members of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, are still pushing for a harsher response to Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment.
Lawmakers have until now done little to push back against Trump’s approach to foreign policy – standing aside as he launched a trade war, picked fights with long-time U.S. allies and embraced dictators from North Korea to Russia.
But the Khashoggi killing has sparked a nascent legislative rebellion that promises to escalate when Democrats take control of the House in January. A clash over Trump’s handling of the journalist’s murder – and his broader embrace of Saudi Arabia – could unfold as early as next week, when Congress is set to reconvene.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has requested a classified briefing from top Trump administration officials – including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis – on Khashoggi’s murder as well as the U.S. support for a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.
Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen and the Associated Press
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