Saudi Arabia Denounces Senate Resolution on Khashoggi Murder

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, speaks to his father, King Salman, right, at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Dec. 9.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, speaks to his father, King Salman, right, at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Dec. 9.


Photo:

Saudi Press Agency/Associated Press

Saudi Arabia on Monday delivered a rebuke to the U.S. Senate for passing a resolution that blamed the kingdom’s crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a rare criticism by Riyadh of its most important ally.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the Senate’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing as based on “unsubstantiated claims and allegations.” The rebuttal used unusually blunt language for a diplomatic communiqué, showing how the Khashoggi killing has inflamed tensions between Saudi Arabia and much of Washington’s establishment.

“The kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs,” the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “And any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature.”

The Senate last week passed a resolution to end U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains the long-term significance of the Senate’s vote.

The Saudi government has vowed to hold the perpetrators of the Oct. 2 murder accountable and repeatedly denied that Prince Mohammed knew about the operation that led to the death of Mr. Khashoggi—a critic of the Saudi government and a Washington Post columnist—inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution with broad bipartisan sponsorship condemning the murder of Mr. Khashoggi and laying responsibility for the death on Prince Mohammed. The move was largely symbolic and is unlikely to lead to legislation that could directly affect the kingdom’s leadership.

But while the Trump administration has defended the crown prince, arguing there is no direct link between him and the murder, hostility toward Saudi Arabia is mounting in Congress and goes beyond the Khashoggi killing.

Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.


Photo:

Virginia Mayo/Associated Press

The Senate on Thursday also passed a resolution with bipartisan support calling for the U.S. to withdraw its backing for the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen. The measure, opposed by House Republicans, is unlikely to affect U.S. military policy in the region for now. The Senate is separately reviewing a bill that would halt weapons sales to the kingdom.

The Senate reached its conclusion on Prince Mohammed’s alleged involvement in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing after a group of senators were briefed by Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel.

In a classified assessment, the CIA determined that, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death, the crown prince sent at least 11 messages to a top aide who oversaw the operation, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

In its statement Monday, the Saudi government said it appreciated the Trump administration’s “prudent position” on the two countries’ relationship, but that the Senate’s measure “sends the wrong message to all those who want to cause a rift in Saudi-U.S. relationship.”

It also highlighted areas of bilateral cooperation, including the kingdom’s role in keeping oil prices stable and countering Iran in the Middle East.

Write to Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com

Appeared in the December 18, 2018, print edition as ‘Riyadh Criticizes Senate Resolution.’