WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he did not want to walk away from Saudi Arabia over the disappearance and alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, arguing the US relies on the kingdom in the fight against terrorism.
Asked during an interview on Fox Business what punitive steps he had in mind if he learned Saudi Arabia was responsible, Trump said: “Well, I hope we’re going to be on the better side of the equation.
“You know we need Saudi Arabia in terms of our fight against all of the terrorism, everything that’s happening in Iran and other places.”
The US and Saudi Arabia have long been allies, with both opposed to Riyadh’s regional nemesis Iran since the country’s 1979 revolution.
Asked if the US would be willing to walk away from Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “I do not want to do that and frankly they have a tremendous order, $110 billion,” referring to a promised US arms sales to the kingdom.
“It is 500,000 jobs, it will be ultimately $110 billion, it’s the biggest order in the history of our country from an outside military, and I said we are gonna turn that down?” he added.
“So hopefully it is working out. We’ll find out, we’ll get down to the bottom of it. I hope that the king and the crown prince didn’t know about it.”
“That is a big factor in my eyes, and I hope they haven’t.”
Trump sent his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh this week for talks with the Saudi leadership marked by expressions of mutual goodwill.
The US chief diplomat pointedly refused to blame the kingdom and declared he did not want “to talk about any of the facts.”
Khashoggi, a former regime insider who became critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not been seen since he stepped inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to sort out marriage paperwork.
The controversy has blown a massive hole in attempts by Prince Mohammed to promote himself as a modern reformer and led to a spate of cancellations from a major Riyadh investment conference scheduled next week.