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UK condemns killing of Saudi journalist Khashoggi in ‘strongest possible terms’

Saudi Arabia’s claim that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight at its Istanbul consulate is ‘not credible’, says Jeremy Hunt.

The UK has condemned the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and promised a “thoughtful and considered” response to the “appalling brutality”.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saudi Arabia’s official claim that Mr Khashoggi died in a fight at the Gulf kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul was “not credible”.

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the killing “in the strongest possible terms” and added “we must get to the truth of what happened”.

Labour stepped up calls for a boycott on arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the “horrific murder”.

Mr Hunt acknowledged that the UK had close security and business links with Saudi Arabia but “if the appalling stories we are reading turn out to be true” the UK “will act accordingly”.

He told MPs: “We have an important strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia involving defence and security co-operation which has saved lives on the streets of Britain. We also have a trading partnership that supports thousands of jobs.

“So whilst we will be thoughtful and considered in our response, I have also been clear that if the appalling stories we are reading turn out to be true, they are fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly.

“Indeed such reports are also incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s own stated goal of progress and renewal.

“That is why the extent to which Saudi Arabia is able to convince us that it remains committed to that progress will ultimately determine the response of the UK and its allies – and we will continue to convey our strength of feeling on this issue to every level of the Saudi leadership.”

Saudi Arabia admitted on Friday that Washington Post columnist Mr Khashoggi, a vocal critic of Riyadh, was killed at its Istanbul mission.

Mr Hunt said the Turkish-led investigation needed to establish:

– Who authorised the dispatch of 15 officials from Saudi Arabia to Istanbul

– When the Riyadh government first learned of Mr Khashoggi’s death

– Why there was a delay in allowing investigators into the consulate

– Why Mr Khashoggi’s death was not disclosed until October 19, some 17 days after it happened.

Mr Hunt said: “The actions Britain and our allies take will depend on two things: firstly the credibility of the final explanation given by Saudi Arabia, and secondly on our confidence that such an appalling episode cannot – and will not – be repeated.”

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A security guard at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi disappeared (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson urged a robust response to Saudi Arabia over Mr Khashoggi’s death.

Britain should “refuse to turn a blind eye” to the death of the dissident journalist and pressure Saudi Arabia into ending the brutal civil war in Yemen, Mr Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column.

Mr Johnson said “we cannot just let it pass”, and, while the UK has crucial trade and security links with the Gulf State, “the UK and the US must lead other countries in holding Saudi Arabia properly to account”.

Turkish government sources have claimed that Mr Khashoggi was tortured and murdered by a hit squad flown in from Riyadh.

The Saudis initially dismissed the allegations as baseless, without providing an explanation as to how the writer disappeared after entering the consulate on October 2.

A number of Saudi nationals have since been arrested, while deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been dismissed, state TV reported.

Labour’s leadership seized on the events in Istanbul to call for arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be halted.

In the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn said “condemnation is not enough” from the Government.

“Will they now end arms sales to Saudi Arabia?” he asked.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “These are supposed to be our friends. It’s up to them to change their behaviour, it’s up to us to stand up to them and it is up to us to make it clear that we do not accept this behaviour and they need to change their ways.”

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