DOHA • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he will ask Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ensure the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are held accountable for their crime.
The top United States diplomat, on an extensive Middle East tour, spoke ahead of a politically sensitive visit to Saudi Arabia, which has faced intense international scrutiny over Mr Khashoggi's murder inside its Istanbul consulate.
"We will continue to have a conversation with the Crown Prince and the Saudis about ensuring the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi," Mr Pompeo told reporters at a press conference in Qatar yesterday.
"So, we'll continue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable, certainly by the Saudis, but by the United States as well."
Mr Pompeo was due to travel to Saudi Arabia later yesterday as part of an eight-day trip to Amman, Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat and, finally, Kuwait City.
He was speaking to journalists in Doha after meeting his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. He will meet the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, before heading to Saudi Arabia.
On a previous visit to Riyadh at the height of the Khashoggi affair, Mr Pompeo's broad smiles with the Crown Prince caused outrage among some Americans.
However, US President Donald Trump has said Washington wants to preserve the alliance with the kingdom, although the US Senate has clearly blamed Prince Mohammed for the murder.
Washington is eager for regional unity to gain widespread support for its fight against Iran. Mr Pompeo yesterday refused to comment on reports that Washington had recently considered military action against Teheran.
He also called on Qatar and other Gulf countries to end the worst political rift in the region for years, which has seen Doha diplomatically and economically isolated by neighbouring former allies for the past 19 months. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt - all US allies - cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and seeking closer ties to Saudi arch-rival Iran.
Qatar - also a US ally - denies the allegations and accuses the countries of seeking regime change.
"As for the GCC... we are all more powerful when we're working together when we have common challenges in the region and around the world," Mr Pompeo said, referring to the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Washington, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, has so far been unsuccessful in trying to end the dispute. Attempts at mediation have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of US envoy Anthony Zinni.
For Washington, turning the page on the crisis is essential for the successful launch of the Middle East Strategic Alliance, which is a Nato-style security pact that includes Gulf countries as well as Egypt and Jordan.
The US and Qatar held their second "strategic dialogue" yesterday, and signed agreements on defence, education and culture.