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Turkey: Joint Inspection at Consulate  10/15 06:14

   ISTANBUL (AP) -- Turkey and Saudi Arabia are expected to conduct a joint 
"inspection" on Monday of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, nearly two weeks 
after the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish 
authorities said.

   The announcement from an official at Turkey's Foreign Ministry comes as 
international concern continues to grow over the writer who vanished on a visit 
to the consulate on Oct. 2. American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive 
action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain jointly called for a 
"credible investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance.

   The Foreign Ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with 
government regulations. Officials in Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond 
to a request for comment.

   Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and 
dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin 
Salman. The kingdom has called such allegations "baseless" but has not offered 
any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

   Such a search would be an extraordinary development, as embassies and 
consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be 
protected by host nations. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order 
to appease its Western allies and the international community.

   President Donald Trump has said Saudi Arabia could face "severe punishment" 
if it was proven it was involved in Khashoggi's disappearance. On Sunday, Saudi 
Arabia warned that if it "receives any action, it will respond with greater 
action, and that the kingdom's economy has an influential and vital role in the 
global economy."

   "The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to 
undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using 
political pressures or repeating false accusations," said the statement, 
carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

   The statement did not elaborate. However, a column published in English a 
short time later by the general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite 
news network suggested Saudi Arabia could use its oil production as a weapon. 
Benchmark Brent crude is trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has 
criticized OPEC and Saudi Arabia over rising prices.

   Saudi media followed on from that statement in television broadcasts and 
newspaper front pages Monday.

   The Arabic-language daily Okaz wrote a headline on Monday in English 
warning: "Don't Test Our Patience." It showed a clenched fist made of a crowd 
of people in the country's green color.

   The Saudi Gazette trumpeted: "Enough Is Enough," while the Arab News said: 
"Saudi Arabia 'will not be bullied'."

   The Arab News' headline was above a front-page editorial by Dubai-based 
real-estate tycoon Khalaf al-Habtoor, calling on Gulf Arab nations to boycott 
international firms now backing out of a planned economic summit in Riyadh 
later this month.

   "Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once 
they have finished kicking the kingdom, we will be next in line," al-Habtoor 
said.

   Already, international business leaders are pulling out of the kingdom's 
upcoming investment forum, a high-profile event known as "Davos in the Desert." 
They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested 
billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief 
Executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

   News that the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, would pull out of the 
conference drew angry responses across the region. The foreign minister of the 
neighboring island kingdom of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, tweeted 
Sunday night that there should be a boycott of the ride-hailing app both there 
and in Saudi Arabia.

   Late Sunday, Saudi King Salman spoke by telephone with Turkish President 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Khashoggi. Turkey said Erdogan "stressed the forming 
of a joint working group to probe the case." Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said King 
Salman thanked Erdogan "for welcoming the kingdom's proposal" for forming the 
working group.

   The king also said Turkey and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relations and "that 
no one will get to undermine the strength of this relationship," according to a 
statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency. While Turkey and the kingdom 
differ on political issues, Saudi investments are a crucial lifeline for Ankara 
amid trouble with its national currency, the Turkish lira.

   Prince Mohammed, King Salman's son, has aggressively pitched the kingdom as 
a destination for foreign investment. But Khashoggi's disappearance has led 
several business leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming 
investment conference in Riyadh called the Future Investment Initiative.

   The Saudi stock exchange, only months earlier viewed as a darling of 
frontier investors, plunged as much as 7 percent at one point Sunday before 
closing down over 4 percent. On Monday, Riyadh's Tadawul exchange traded up 
around 2.5 percent.

   Concerns appeared to spread Monday to Japan's SoftBank, which has invested 
tens of billions of dollars of Saudi government funds. SoftBank was down over 7 
percent in trading on Tokyo's stock exchange.

   Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, 
criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its 
arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. 
Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince.


(KA)

 
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