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Khashoggi murder: Gulf states show support for Saudi Arabia

Bahrain and the UAE have stood by Riyadh after US intelligence report blames Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for journalist's killing
Qatar's ruler Sheikh Tamim Al Thani and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) have made a rare call (Reuters)

Qatar's ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani showed support for Saudi Arabia on Sunday during a rare phone call with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The Emir's office said that during the call, Sheikh Tamim reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's sovereignty and that its stability was "integral" to the security of both Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council. 

"Qatar's emir also reaffirmed his country's firm support for the government and people of Saudi Arabia and everything that would strengthen the security, stability and sovereignty of the Kingdom, and considers its stability as an integral part of the stability of the state of Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council system," the Emir's office said.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates showed their backing for Riyadh on Friday after US intelligence agencies concluded that the crown prince was responsible for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain ended a 2017 embargo on Qatar over allegations that it supported "terrorism" and had close relations with Iran. Doha denied the charges and said the boycott was aimed at curtailing its independence. 

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Since then, air and travel links have resumed between Qatar and quartet, and each state is to arrange bilateral talks with Doha to resolve individual issues.

Manama on Friday night said it rejected any attempts to "undermine" Saudi Arabia's sovereignty, according to Bahrain's state news agency, BNA.  

"Bahrain emphasizes the importance of the fundamental role of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman and his crown prince, its policy of moderation regionally, in the Arab region, and internationally, its efforts to enhance regional security and stability, and promote global economic development," BNA said. 

The UAE's foreign ministry, meanwhile, said it "expressed its confidence in and support for the Saudi judiciary rulings, which affirm the kingdom's commitment to implementing the law in a transparent and impartial manner, and holding all those involved in this case accountable".

Saudi Arabia on Friday said it "completely" rejected the declassified US report and described it as a "false and unacceptable assessment".

"The kingdom rejects any measure that infringes upon its leadership, sovereignty, and the independence of the judicial system," the kingdom's foreign ministry said. 

"It is truly unfortunate that this report, with its unjustified and inaccurate conclusions, is issued while the kingdom had clearly denounced this heinous crime, and the kingdom's leadership took the necessary steps to ensure that such a tragedy never takes place again."

Getting away with murder

The report, released by the director of national intelligence, will likely alter US policymakers' ties with Saudi Arabia and, particularly, with the crown prince.

Activists and rights groups were quick to call for US sanctions against bin Salman on Friday.

"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," said the summary of the report.

The National Assembly party (NAAS), a group led by Saudi dissidents calling for democracy in Saudi Arabia, urged Washington to release the full report into Khashoggi's murder. 

"While we welcome the publication of the report, we await real actions to bring justice in the heinous murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and guarantees that such crimes are never committed against people who express opinions that amount to criticism of the Saudi regime's policies," said Madawi al-Rasheed, an academic and spokesperson for NAAS.

In a television interview on Friday, Biden said he told King Salman that Saudi Arabia has to tackle human rights abuses as a precondition to dealing with the United States.

"[I] made it clear to him that the rules are changing, and we're going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday," Biden said on Spanish-language network Univision.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that Washington will not take action against the crown prince himself. 

The US State and Treasury departments had announced sanctions against dozens of Saudi individuals over their involvement in the Khashoggi murder and other rights violations, without identifying them.

Clarification: An earlier Middle East Eye report stated that Sheikh Tamim Al Thani's call to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman concerned the report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

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