Ankara, Jan 19 (IANS) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has become an obstacle in improving the US-Saudi ties and must be “dealt with”, US Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of President Donald Trump, said here on Saturday.
The Republican lawmaker said that ties between the two sides cannot move forward unless action was taken against Bin Salman, who faced international rebuke over his role in the murder of his supporter-turned-critic and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom consulate in Turkey in October.
“The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is dealt with,” Graham told reporters in Ankara on Saturday, a day after discussing issues related to Saudi Arabia with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He also said he will push for more US sanctions against those involved in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist, Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper reported.
After weeks of providing conflicting accounts of what happened to Khashoggi, the kingdom later said that he was killed “accidentally” in a fist fight at the consulate by “rogue” agents. However, it denied the ruling royal family’s involvement in the killing.
Eleven individuals had been charged by Saudi prosecutors in the journalist’s killing — with five suspects facing the death penalty.
The US imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials in November for their role in the Khashoggi killing, and later, the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution holding the Crown Prince responsible for the murder.
Trump, however, had been reluctant to go after Bin Salman, who is widely believed to have ordered the hit job. He also refused to halt weapon sales to Riyadh, describing Saudi arms purchases as vital to the US economy.
Turkish and American intelligence reports stated that the body of Khashoggi was dismembered shortly after his murder inside the Saudi diplomatic mission. There were also reports of sound recordings and phone calls that directly tied Bin Salman to the murder.
Graham said that by ordering the brutal murder, Bin Salman violated “every norm of international behaviour”.