Theresa May has told the king of Saudi Arabia that the country’s explanation regarding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi lacks credibility. The British Prime Minister spoke by telephone with the Middle East ruler on Wednesday to convey Britain’s concerns about the situation.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to King Salman today to reiterate the UK’s grave concerns about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The Prime Minister said the current explanation lacks credibility so there remains an urgent need to establish exactly what happened.
“She strongly urged Saudi Arabia to co-operate with the Turkish investigation and to be transparent about the results. It is important that the full facts are established.
“The Prime Minister also reiterated that all individuals bearing responsibility for the killing of Mr Khashoggi must be properly held to account.
“She said the Home Secretary is taking action against all suspects in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to prevent them entering the UK. If these individuals have visas, they are being revoked.”
Turkish officials say Mr Khashoggi was killed on October 2 by a 15-man Saudi hit squad that included a member of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage on overseas trips.
The British Prime Minister has rejected the Saudi claim that Mr Khashoggi died after a fight at the consulate. She told MPs:
“We condemn the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the strongest possible terms and after his disappearance we made clear that Saudi Arabia must co-operate with Turkey and conduct a full and credible investigation.
“The claim that has been made that Mr Khashoggi died in a fight does not amount to a credible explanation so there does remain an urgent need to establish what has happened in relation to this.”
The announcement on the visas followed similar measures taken by the United States. The UK Government has come under pressure to go further and suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a key trading partner.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the killing had “all the hallmarks of being a premeditated murder”, and he urged Mrs May to follow Germany in announcing that it would not approve new arms sales.
“That is moral leadership, the UK Government must take decisive action,” he said. “Words of condemnation will not do.”
Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine also urged Western powers to “take a stand” over the killing.
But while he said that Britain should be prepared, if necessary, to halt arms sales to the Saudis, he warned such measures would lead to a loss of UK influence in Riyadh.
In deciding what action to take, he said, the Government also needs to take account of the important stabilising role which Saudi Arabia has played in the Middle East.
“In this particular case I haven’t the slightest doubt that the Western allies have got to take a stand over the butchering of Mr Khashoggi,” Lord Heseltine told the BBC.
He said that while Britain should be prepared to take action against the Saudis, the Government must think through the consequences.
“The problem with stopping selling arms is that it doesn’t have any effect on the ability of these countries to behave in the way that they want to because there are plenty of other sources of arms procurement,” he said.
“What it does mean is that you lose any influence in those countries.”