US Trump won’t halt Saudi sales US Hurrican brings pain to Florida
US President Donald Trump has said he sees no reason to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, possibly setting up a clash with the US Congress.
Mr Trump also said the US might be closer to finding out what happened to Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish authorities believe Khashoggi was killed inside the building and his body removed, allegations that Riyadh dismisses as baseless.
In a sign Turkey and Saudi Arabia might be looking for a way forward, Turkey accepted a Saudi proposal to form a joint working group to investigate the case, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency quoted a presidential spokesman as saying.
Turkish investigators were prepared to enter the consulate, but were awaiting final authorisation from the Saudis.
Mr Trump said he saw no reason to block Saudi purchases of US arms or its investments in the US despite the journalist’s case, saying the Gulf nation would just move its money into Russia and China.
“They’re spending $US110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs . . . for this country,” he said.
“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $US110 billion into the United States, because you know what they’re going to do . . . they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or some place else.”
His comments prompted criticism from members of the US Senate, including from some fellow Republicans, many of whom signed a letter on Wednesday forcing his administration to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance and paving the way to possible sanctions on Saudi officials.
“If it’s found that they murdered a journalist, that will hugely change our relationship,” Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said.
“There will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels.”
The Khashoggi incident might make it very hard for the Trump administration to win congressional approval for arms sales to the Saudis.
Under US law, major foreign sales of military equipment can be blocked by Congress.
British billionaire Richard Branson says his Virgin Group will suspend talks with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a planned $US1 billion investment in the group’s space ventures, in light of the disappearance of Khashoggi.
“What has reportedly happened in Turkey, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government,” Mr Branson said.