Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “tremendous mistake” and part of a rogue operation, adding that his government would punish those responsible for his “murder.”
“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he told Fox News on Sunday. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable in any government.”
Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia was taking action to investigate how Khashoggi died and hold those responsible accountable.
“We are determined to uncover every stone. We are determined to find out all the facts. And we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” he said.
On Monday CNN published surveillance footage that, a Turkish official said, showed a Saudi operative dressed up in Khashoggi’s clothes on the day the journalist was killed. The man, whom the Turkish official alleges is a body double, is seen at locations around Istanbul.
Jubeir told Fox that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was not aware of the operation beforehand. “Even the senior leadership over intelligence service was not aware of this,” Jubeir said.
The comments come a day after US President Donald Trump criticized Saudi Arabia’s explanation of Khashoggi’s death as “all over the place” in an interview with the Washington Post. However, the President also praised bin Salman, calling him a “strong person” with “very good control.”
In the Post article published late Saturday, Trump said that “obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” when asked about Saudi Arabia’s account of the killing of Khashoggi inside their Istanbul consulate almost three weeks ago. “Their stories are all over the place,” Trump said.
But Trump was supportive of the Crown Prince’s leadership and reiterated the importance of economic ties between the two countries.
“He’s seen as a person who can keep things under check,” Trump said of bin Salman, adding, “I mean that in a positive way.”
“He truly loves his country,” said Trump, who added that he hadn’t “heard either way” whether the Crown Prince was responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.
In his interview on Fox News, Jubeir said that Prince Salman was not closely tied to the people involved in the operation. Jubeir said Saudi Arabia did not know what happened to Khashoggi’s body and has not heard any audio from inside the consulate.
He cautioned against reaching quick conclusions and told Baier to look up the timeline surrounding the US role at Abu Ghraib prison, the detention center where US soldiers were revealed to have beaten and tortured captured Iraqis during the Iraq War.
“These things take time,” Jubeir told Fox News.
Finally, he offered his condolences to Khashoggi’s family.
“We feel their pain. And I wish this didn’t happen and I wish that this could’ve been avoided. Unfortunately, a huge and grave mistake was made. And I assure them, that those responsible will be held accountable for this,” he said.
Many questions, few answers
An increasingly vocal chorus of international voices have to come to question Saudi Arabia’s story.
Saudia Arabia has gone from blanket denials of any involvement to an admission Saturday morning that the journalist was, in fact, killed while visiting the consulate.
On Sunday, the UK, French and German foreign ministers released a joint statement on Khashoggi, noting Saudi Arabia’s preliminary findings but calling for an “urgent need for clarification” on what exactly happened after he entered the consulate on October 2.