Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt today met the Saudi Arabian ambassador to voice the UK’s concern about the disappearance of a prominent journalist from the Gulf kingdom.
Jamal Khashoggi went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, sparking claims that he had been killed inside the building.
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Hunt said that if reports of Khashoggi’s death proved correct, the UK would regard the situation as “serious”, adding: “Friendships depend on shared values.”
The Foreign Secretary met ambassador Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud a day after Downing Street said the UK was “working urgently” to establish the facts behind Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The Turkish authorities are set to conduct a search of the Istanbul consulate building, after announcing that Saudi Arabia had declared itself “open to co-operation” in the investigation.
Hunt said in a Twitter post: “Just met the Saudi ambassador to seek urgent answers over Jamal Khashoggi.
“Violence against journalists worldwide is going up and is a grave threat to freedom of expression.
“If media reports prove correct, we will treat the incident seriously – friendships depend on shared values.”
The Foreign Office’s senior mandarin Sir Simon McDonald raised the case with the ambassador by phone yesterday evening.
Khashoggi visited the consulate last Tuesday to obtain a document confirming he had divorced his ex-wife, in order to allow him to remarry.
Turkish officials have said he was killed on the premises and his body was then removed, but Saudi officials have denied the allegations as baseless.
Amnesty International UK’s foreign affairs expert Polly Truscott said: “Whether or not it is definitively established that Saudi Arabian officials were behind the disappearance – and possible murder – of Jamal Khashoggi, this case should act as a much-needed wake-up call for the UK in its dealings with Saudi Arabia.
“For far too long the UK has publicly downplayed the severity of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, maintaining that ‘dialogue’ and ‘access’ were effective means of encouraging human rights reforms in the country.
“The UK needs to seriously rethink its strategy on Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record and the deeply concerning Khashoggi case may be the jolt that ministers need.”
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville