UPDATE 2 – Saudi king leaves Bahrain after hours-long visit


MANAMA, Bahrain (AA) – Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz departed Bahrain on Wednesday afternoon after an hours-long visit, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

At a meeting in capital Manama, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and his Saudi counterpart discussed bilateral relations, regional developments and other “issues of common interest”, the SPA reported.

King Salman’s visit was not announced in advance, nor were any details given regarding its expected duration or itinerary.

In 2017, Bahrain — along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — abruptly severed relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorist groups.

Qatar vociferously denies the allegation, describing Saudi-led efforts to isolate it — politically and economically — as a violation of international law.

Kuwait has attempted to mediate the crisis, which until now remains unresolved.

Writing by Ali Abo Rezeg

Saudi King Salman to visit Bahrain later Wednesday

            MANAMA (AA) - Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is expected to pay a surprise visit to Bahrain later Wednesday, according to the Bahrain News Agency (BNA).<br>

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa will receive his Saudi counterpart upon the latter’s arrival in Manama, BNA reported.

According to the news agency, the two leaders are expected to discuss bilateral relations, regional developments and other “issues of common interest”.

King Salman’s visit was not announced in advance, nor have any details been given regarding its expected duration or itinerary.

In 2017, Bahrain — along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — abruptly severed relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorist groups.

Qatar vociferously denies the allegation, describing Saudi-led efforts to isolate it — politically and economically — as a violation of international law.

Kuwait has attempted to mediate the crisis, which until now remains unresolved.

Writing by Ali Abo Rezeg

US embassy move gained little, undercut peace: Experts

            By Michael Hernandez </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – When U.S. President Donald Trump announced one year ago that Washington would be relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his declaration was met with ominous claims of pending disaster and threats of significant penalties from international powers.</p>  <p>Neither have come to pass.</p>  <p>The most significant rebuke from the international community – a UN General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly passed – merely asked countries not to establish embassies in Jerusalem. It did not impact in any way the administration’s bullish approach to the matter.</p>  <p>But despite calls from the U.S. and Israel for other countries to follow suit, only a handful have, and at least one nation – Paraguay – reversed course following a change in government.</p>  <p>That response could best be described as “tepid,” said Noura Erakat, a human rights lawyer who focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.</p>  <p>“This seems to just marginalize the United States even more when it comes to its standing internationally,” Erakat told Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>Trump’s decision – fulfilled in May – has served to foil any efforts his administration may take to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, particularly a looming rollout of its peace plan that is being forged by his son-in-law and special advisor Jared Kushner.</p>  <p>The Palestinian leadership has adamantly rejected any role for the U.S. in prospective peace talks after Trump upended decades of internationally-held understandings about Jerusalem by recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.</p>  <p>Kushner’s long-promised peace plan is unlikely to change Palestinian opposition.</p>  <p>Indeed, in announcing the embassy move, Trump said he was “taking Jerusalem off the table,” language that led many “to conclude that the U.S. policy is to determine unilaterally, or through coordination with Israel, issues that had been deemed as ‘final status’ in the past,” remarked Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University who specializes in the Middle East.  </p>  <p>“The Trump administration's diplomacy seems aimed at persuading regional actors to accept current realities as a kind of imposed solution on the Palestinians. So far, the U.S. has achieved a few tactical successes, but even the most cooperative regional actors seem more resigned to than they are supportive of the Trump approach,” he said.</p>  <p>Following not only the Jerusalem declaration but the Trump administration’s subsequent moves to sever U.S. aid for the Palestinians, speculation has continued to mount that Kushner’s proposal is likely to be little more than a carte blanche to Israel, which Mark Perry, an independent analyst who served as an informal advisor to former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, described as “a surrender document for the Palestinians”.</p>  <p>Further thwarting Trump’s ambitions for the peace plan is opposition to the Jerusalem declaration from Saudi King Salman, according to Perry.</p>  <p>Salman has largely taken a back seat in ruling the Kingdom to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is said to be more favorable to the forthcoming plan.</p>  <p>But Perry said the king has remained adamant on the issue following the U.S.’s unilateral Jerusalem declaration, an important development as the Kingdom continues to play a leading role among most Arab nations.</p>  <p>“No matter what the peace plan is, it’s not going to go anywhere without Arab support, and Saudi Arabia is not ready to do that,” Perry said.</p>  <p>While the Trump administration has not been dealt a major international blow by the president's announcement, neither has it gained much beyond the accolades heaped on it by Israeli leaders.</p>  <p>Meanwhile, Trump's promise to strike the &quot;deal of the century&quot; between Israel and Palestine appears, for now, derailed by his own actions.</p>  <p>“The strategy is not to run in place. The strategy is to make progress. And yeah, the move of the embassy to Jerusalem didn’t hurt them, but what exactly was the gain?” said Perry.</p>  <p>“This was pure fluff, and the mistake of the Trump administration was to assume that they were going to gain something by it. They gained nothing. And they actually hurt themselves because no one is going to sit at a table with them. These are people who can’t keep promises.&quot;

Saudi king invites Qatari emir to attend GCC summit

                              By Serdar Bitmez and Safiye Karabacak</p>    <p>DOHA (AA) - Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Tuesday invited Qatari Emir Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to attend 39th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Dec. 9.</p>    <p>According to Qatar’s state-run news agency QNA, the emir received an official invitation from the Saudi king. </p>    <p>The invitation letter was delivered by GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayyani to Qatar’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, the news agency said.</p>    <p>A six-nation bloc of oil-rich Arab Gulf states, the GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. </p>    <p>In June of last year, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain collectively severed ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a charge Qatar denies. 

Washington Post CEO slams Trump’s support of Saudis

By Kasim Ileri

WASHINGTON (AA) – Washington Post publisher and chief executive Fred Ryan on Wednesday condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision not to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“A clear and dangerous message has been sent to tyrants around the world: Flash enough money in front of the president of the United States, and you can literally get away with murder,” Ryan wrote in an opinion piece for the newspaper.

In the article, Ryan described a statement by Trump in support of Saudi Arabia as “bizarre, inaccurate and rambling”.

In “Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia,” which was released Tuesday by the White House, Trump said: “King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

Trump maintained that the U.S. needs Saudi Arabia because of its oil, its willingness to counter Iran and its ability to counter terrorism in the region.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist working for The Washington Post, was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Saudi Arabia offered shifting explanations for Khashoggi's disappearance before suggesting he was killed during a botched rendition operation by rogue agents.

So far, 21 people, including security officers, have been arrested in Saudi Arabia in connection with the murder.

“President Trump whitewashed the Saudi government’s brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” Ryan wrote.

“Whatever objections people may have to our turning a blind eye to Khashoggi’s assassination, the president argued, they do not outweigh the (grossly inflated) revenue we can expect from U.S.-Saudi arms deals,” he added.

The CIA recently released a report in which it concluded with high confidence that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's murder.

UPDATE – Erdogan says top Saudi officials ordered Khashoggi hit


By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday the order for journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing came from the top levels of the Saudi government.

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Erdogan said Turkey knows the perpetrators are among the 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia.

"We also know that those individuals came to carry out their orders: Kill Khashoggi and leave. Finally, we know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government," said Erdogan.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, disappeared Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to receive paperwork he needed to get married.

Once inside, he was immediately strangled and then dismembered, according to the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office.

The president said Turkey's efforts led the world to learn Khashoggi was killed in cold blood by a death squad and established his murder was premeditated.

"Yet there are other, no less significant questions whose answers will contribute to our understanding of this deplorable act," said Erdogan, including the whereabouts of Khashoggi's body, the identity of the "local collaborator" who was given his remains, and who ordered the killing.

"Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities have refused to answer those questions," said Erdogan, who pledged to keep asking questions, which he said were crucial to the Turkish probe into the murder.

– 'Proper burial'

"At the very least, he deserves a proper burial in line with Islamic customs. We owe it to his family and friends, including his former colleagues at The Post, to give them an opportunity to say their goodbyes and pay their respects to this honorable man," said Erdogan.

He said Ankara and Riyadh enjoy friendly relations despite the killing.

"I do not believe for a second that King Salman, the custodian of the holy mosques, ordered the hit on Khashoggi. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that his murder reflected Saudi Arabia’s official policy. In this sense, it would be wrong to view the Khashoggi slaying as a 'problem' between two countries," said the president.

Also, he said the "longtime" friendship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia does not mean Ankara would "will turn a blind eye to the premeditated murder that unfolded in front of our very eyes.

"The killing of Khashoggi is inexplicable," said Erdogan.

The president warned that no one should dare commit "such acts on the soil of a NATO ally again".

"If anyone chooses to ignore that warning, they will face severe consequences. The Khashoggi murder was a clear violation and a blatant abuse of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Failure to punish the perpetrators could set a very dangerous precedent.”

Erdogan also slammed inaction against the Saudi consul general, who he said lied through his teeth to the media and fled Turkey shortly afterward, calling it "deeply concerning".

"As responsible members of the international community, we must reveal the identities of the puppet masters behind Khashoggi’s killing and discover those in whom Saudi officials — still trying to cover up the murder — have placed their trust," he said.

Germany hardening line on Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Germany is still waiting for a transparent and credible investigation from Saudi Arabia into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and is ready to take action in light of new findings, a government spokesman has said.

The spokesman, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency that Germany was increasingly concerned over the case as many questions remained unanswered almost a month after Khashoggi's disappearance.

“We are now following very closely whether Saudi Arabia is endeavoring to ensure transparency in the clarification of the case and to hold to account those responsible. In light of this development, we are ready to take appropriate action with our international partners,” he said, referring to widespread calls for sanctions against Riyadh.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman last week and called for a rapid, transparent and credible investigation, stressing that all those responsible must be held accountable.

“This appeal to Saudi Arabia remains valid. Saudi Arabia has committed itself to this in several public statements and must now be measured by these statements,” the spokesman said.

The German government has also praised Turkey’s efforts to unravel the truth since Khashoggi's disappearance.

“The work of the Turkish authorities has played a major role in the investigation of the case to date. The federal government supports all efforts to clarify this case completely,” he stressed.

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, was killed on Oct. 2 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

After weeks of denying involvement, the Kingdom admitted last week that Khashoggi had been killed at the consulate but claimed that the Saudi royal family had no prior knowledge of a plot to murder him.

So far, 18 people, including security officers, have been arrested in Saudi Arabia in connection with the murder.

On Wednesday, Turkish prosecutors announced their preliminary findings, saying Khashoggi was strangled to death in a premeditated killing soon after he entered the Saudi consulate.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office said Khashoggi's body had been disposed of after being dismembered.

Saudi authorities have so far claimed that they do not know the whereabouts of his remains.

Russia’s Putin, Saudi king discuss Khashoggi issue

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz held a phone talk on Thursday evening, a statement by the Kremlin said.

The two leaders discussed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the situation in Syria, the statement said.

The talk was initiated by the Saudi side, it added.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, had gone missing since entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

After days of denying any knowledge of his whereabouts, Saudi officials last week admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a "brawl" at the consulate.

During their conversation, the Saudi king also invited Putin to visit his country, the statement said.