(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with Saudi rulers in Riyadh on Monday, and underscored that the U.S. expects the country to get to the bottom of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.
Pompeo, who spoke to reporters after meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, said he had received a commitment from the country’s leaders to achieve justice in the case.
“Every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable,” Pompeo said. “The expectations that we’ve set for them are very clear -- we’ve spoken about this a great deal.”
Pompeo’s comments on the case were some of his most stern to date, and suggested that the U.S. may be putting more pressure on Saudi leaders to explain what actually happened to Khashoggi, who was killed after going into the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October.
U.S. officials had earlier said that Saudi explanations about Khashoggi’s death had not surpassed the “threshold” of credibility, and U.S. intelligence has determined that the crown prince was involved, according to U.S. lawmakers briefed on the matter.
There was no immediate response from Saudi officials. At the start of Pompeo’s meeting with the crown prince earlier in the morning, Prince Mohammed said: “We try to add more positivity as much as we can.”
It took 17 days for Saudi Arabia to admit that Khashoggi, an insider-turned-critic of the regime who went into self-exile, was dead. The day after he went missing, Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News that Khashoggi had left the consulate on his own. Now the government says he died after "discussions" between him and other people at the consulate turned physical.
Pompeo, who had earlier said the U.S. has “no direct evidence” linking Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to Khashoggi’s murder, again declined to address reports that the CIA has concluded the kingdom’s de facto leader was responsible. In October, the U.S. revoked visas for several Saudis implicated in his killing and barred others from being able to get documents to travel to the U.S.
The slow response to Khashoggi’s killing, amid a torrent of intelligence leaks from Turkish authorities about Khashoggi’s death and alleged torture and dismemberment, have bruised Prince Mohammed’s reputation at home and abroad as a modernizing reformer in Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo said Saudi Arabia was “still working through their fact-finding process" in the case, and that the U.S. is doing the same.
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