World reacts to Saudi confirmation of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

A round-up of international reaction following Saudi Arabia’s explanation for dissident journalist’s killing.

A human rights activist holds picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul
Protesters have demanded answers from the Saudi leadership for weeks around the world [Reuters]

After weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia for the first time confirmed that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The kingdom claimed early on Saturday that The Washington Post columnist died after a “fist fight” inside the building and 18 Saudi citizens were arrested over the killing.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing on October 2 after entering the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage.

Saudi officials had previously denied Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic facility, insisting he had left the consulate before disappearing.

Here’s a round-up of the international reaction related to the confirmation of the Saudi journalist’s killing.

‘Saudi whitewash’

Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia should “immediately produce” the body of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi so that independence forensic experts can conduct an autopsy in line with international standards.

Samah Hadid, Middle East director of campaigns for Amnesty International, said the Saudi version of events cannot be trusted, and a UN-led investigation would be necessary to avoid a “Saudi whitewash” of circumstances surrounding the writer’s killing.

Meanwhile, Turan Kislakci, president of the Turkish Arab Media Association, said the “authority that gave the orders” to kill Khashoggi should be punished


French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country condemned the killing of Khashoggi and called for a thorough investigation into the incident. 

“France condemns this murder in the strongest terms,” Le Drian said in a statement. 

“The confirmation of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi’s death is a first step toward the establishment of the truth. However, many questions remain unanswered,” he added. 

Le Drian added that those responsible for Khashoggi’s death should be held accountable. 


Spain’s government said it was “dismayed” by information from Riyadh about Khashoggi’s death, and echoed a call from the UN for a thorough and transparent investigation to bring to justice those responsible for the killing.

“The Spanish government is dismayed by early reports from the Saudi prosecutor about the death of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and offers its most sincere condolences to his family,” Spain said in a statement.

‘No cover-up’

The deputy head of Turkey’s ruling party says Turkey will “never allow a cover-up” of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Numan Kurtulmus of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also said that Turkey would share its evidence of Khashoggi’s killing with the world and that a “conclusive result” of the investigation is close.

Kurtulmus says he thinks “it’s not possible for the Saudi administration to wiggle itself out of this crime if it’s confirmed”.

Denmark, Netherlands

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he was unconvinced by Saudi Arabia’s account of Khashoggi’s death, Bloomberg reported.

“The fact that the Saudis last night confirmed that he died, after previously insisting he left the consulate alive, shows that we haven’t been told the full truth, and we must insist on getting that,” Rasmussen was quoted as saying in Copenhagen after talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Rutte called Khashoggi’s killing “shocking”. 

Both have called for an investigation into his death by the United Nations and other Western powers.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she does not accept Saudi Arabia’s explanation on the death of Khashoggi, Bloomberg reported.

“They still haven’t been cleared up and of course we demand that they be cleared up,” she said at a regional convention of her Christian Democratic Union Party in eastern Germany.

The “horrific events” surrounding the journalist’s killing as a warning that democratic freedoms are under assault across the globe, she added. 

Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s allies in the Middle East rallied behind the kingdom over its response to the ongoing investigation into the killing of Saudi writer and critic Khashoggi.

On Saturday, Saudi state media reported that King Salman had ordered the formation of a ministerial committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, to restructure the kingdom’s intelligence services.

Egypt praised Saudi’s King Salman for taking “decisive” action, saying it was confident the ongoing probe into Khashoggi’s death would reveal the truth.

“Egypt sees that the brave and decisive decisions and actions taken by the Saudi King over this matter align with his majesty’s approach that respects the principles of law and applications of effective justice,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also voiced support for Saudi’s King Salman and commended his “directives and decisions … on the issue of Kashoggi”, UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported.

Bahrain, meanwhile, said in an official statement that Saudi Arabia “will remain a state of justice, value and principles”, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV network reported.

Yemen also “praised decisions” made by the Saudi king, according to the country’s state news agency.

United Kingdom

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was considering its “next steps” following Saudi Arabia’s admission over Khashoggi’s killing and reiterated that that those responsible must be held to account.

“We send our condolences to Jamal Khashoggi’s family after this confirmation of his death. We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps,” the statement said.

“As the Foreign Secretary has said, this was a terrible act and those responsible must be held to account,” the statement added.

The UK’s main opposition Labour party has called on the governing Conservative Party to suspend arms sales to the kingdom.

United Nations

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, is “deeply troubled” by Riyadh’s confirmation of Khashoggi’s death, according to a spokesperson.

The UN chief called for a “prompt, thorough, transparent” probe into the circumstances of the killing and urged full accountability for those who were involved.

“The secretary-general is deeply troubled by the confirmation of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. He extends his condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and friends,” Guterres’s office said in a statement.

“The secretary-general stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.”

Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s explanation for how Khashoggi was killed was credible, adding what happened at the consulate is “unacceptable”.

Speaking to reporters at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, he said Khashoggi’s death was a “horrible event” that has not gone “unnoticed”, but he noted the announcement on the circumstances of the journalist’s death was a “good first step”.

“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable,” Trump said.

He also said he prefers any sanctions against Riyadh not include cancelling multibillion-dollar defence deals.

White House

Earlier, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Washington acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s announcement and was “closely” following the developments.

“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process,” Sanders said.

“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancee, and friends.”

US politicians

Politicians in the US have reacted in disbelief at claims in Saudi Arabia’s state media that Khashoggi died following a “fist fight”.

“To say that I am sceptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr Khashoggi is an understatement,” prominent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter, adding it was “hard to find this latest ‘explanation’ as credible”.

Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff also questioned the Saudi’s credibility, tweeting: “If he was fighting with those sent to capture or kill him it was for his life. The kingdom must be held to account. If the administration doesn’t lead, Congress must.”

California’s Eric Swalwell, a senior Democrat congressman on the Intelligence Committee, said the unanswered question now is the location of Khashoggi’s remains. 

“Where is the body? Khashoggi’s family deserve immediate custody of the remains as they seek some measure of closure,” he wrote on Twitter.

‘Brutal assassination’

Karen Attiah, The Washington Post’s Global Opinions editor, described the Saudi announcement as “almost insulting”.

In another Twitter post, Attiah wrote: “Utter bulls**t”.

Fiancee farewell

Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, was the last person to see him alive on October 2 when he entered the Saudi consulate. The reason he went there was to obtain a document proving his divorce so he could remarry.

“God have mercy on you my love Jamal, and may you rest in Paradise,” Cengiz tweeted following the Saudi announcement of his killing.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International separately have been calling for a United Nations investigation into Khashoggi’s killing.

“All along we were concerned about a whitewash, or an investigation by the entity suspected of involvement itself,” Amnesty’s Rawya Rageh said on Saturday. “The impartiality of a Saudi investigation would remain in question.”

Some analysts noted the international pressure finally became too much for the Saudis to bear.

“It took an intense international outcry sustained for two weeks to acknowledge the obvious – that Khashoggi is dead, that he was killed in the Saudi consulate,” said Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

“That gives you an idea of the immense financial and strategic interests that are invested in maintaining the US partnership with Saudi Arabia and its leadership.”

Others questioned the believability of the latest Saudi explanation.

“Each successive narrative put out by the Saudis to explain what happened to Khashoggi has strained credulity,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the United States.

“Especially because the Saudis are still unable or unwilling to produce the one piece of evidence – a body – that could provide a definitive answer one way or the other.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies