Saudi Arabia rejects Turkey call to extradite Khashoggi killers, lauds 'ironclad' ties with US

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Riyadh's relations with the US were "ironclad" amid what he described as "media hysteria" over the killing of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANAMA (Reuters, AFP) - Riyadh on Saturday (Oct 27) dismissed Ankara's calls to extradite 18 Saudis wanted for the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi, as Washington warned the crisis risked destabilising the Middle East.

"On the issue of extradition, the individuals are Saudi nationals. They're detained in Saudi Arabia, and the investigation is in Saudi Arabia, and they will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia," Jubeir said at a regional defence forum in the Bahraini capital.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called for the extradition of the 18 Saudi nationals who the authorities say were involved in the murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi government critic killed in his country's consulate in Istanbul this month.

"We will overcome it," Jubeir told the defence forum.

"The issue, as I said, is being investigated. We will know the truth. We will hold those responsible accountable. And we will put in place mechanisms to ensure it doesn't happen again."

Jubeir also told the security summit in Bahrain that Riyadh's relations with the United States were "ironclad" amid what he described as "media hysteria" over the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, which sparked a global outcry and strained the kingdom's ties with the West.

The minister also said the administration of US President Donald Trump has a "rational, realistic" foreign policy that all Gulf Arab states can support.

He said Saudi Arabia was combating Iran's vision of "darkness" in the Middle East.

Trump has called the Khashoggi case "one of the worst cover-ups in history". Washington moved late on Tuesday to revoke the visas of several Saudis. Britain followed suit on Wednesday.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who was speaking at the same summit in Bahrain, said more measures would follow.

"We will maintain our 'twin imperatives', as stated by Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo, of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for this murder," he told the forum.

Mattis said on Saturday that incidents like the killing of Khashoggi undermined Middle Eastern stability and that the United States would take additional measures against those responsible.

"With our collective interests in peace and unwavering respect for human rights in mind, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly," Mattis said.

"Failure of any one nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most," Mattis said.

Quoting Mr Pompeo, Mattis told the summit in Bahrain that the United States "does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence".

While these were some of the sharpest comments Mattis has made on the Khashoggi killing, he said the incident would not diminish ties with Saudi Arabia. He did not mention de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by name at any point.

"It's hard to imagine that this administration in particular is going to change fundamentally how it views the role of the Saudis in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of counter-Iran,"said Dennis Ross, who served as top Middle East adviser to Mr Barack Obama in his first term as president.

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said Khashoggi's killing was premeditated, contradicting a previous official statement that it happened accidentally during a tussle in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi officials have also said he was accidentally killed in a botched security operation to return him to the kingdom.

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