WASHINGTON/LONDON—Saudi Arabia on Oct. 21 called the killing of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate a “huge and grave mistake,” while saying that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had not been aware of the crime.
The comments from Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir were some of the most direct yet from Riyadh. Speaking to U.S. broadcaster Fox, Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, extended condolences to Khashoggi’s family.
“This is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible tragedy. Our condolences go out to them. We feel their pain,” he said. “Unfortunately, a huge and grave mistake was made and I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable for this.”
He said the Saudis did not know how Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident, had been killed or where his body was. He also said Prince Salman, de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, was not responsible.
“This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had. They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said Oct. 21 that Saudi Arabia’s admission that the Khashoggi had been killed in a fistfight was a “good first step but not enough,” though he added it was premature to discuss any sanctions against Riyadh.
Three European nations—Germany, Britain, and France—pressed Saudi Arabia to provide facts to back up its earlier explanation of a fight, while Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would not export arms to Saudi Arabia while the current uncertainty over Khashoggi’s fate persisted.
Khashoggi went missing after entering the consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
Reflecting international skepticism over its account, a senior Saudi government official has laid out a new version.
The latest account includes details on how the team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and killed him in a chokehold when he resisted.
By Doina Chiacu & Kylie MacLellan