Published: Tue, October 16, 2018
Money | By Arnold Ball

Saudis reject threats as stocks plunge after Trump comments

Saudis reject threats as stocks plunge after Trump comments

Turkey will search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul later on Monday as part of an investigation into the disappearance of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Turkish diplomatic source said. As if to drive the point home, a cleaning crew with mops, trash bags and cartons of milk walked in past journalists waiting outside the consulate on Monday.

The news comes after Saudi King Salman called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan late Sunday, thanking him for the recently formed joint Turkish-Saudi working group to investigate the disappearance.

"What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government", he said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was critical of the Saudi leadership, was last seen entering the consulate on October 2.

More business leaders have pulled out of Saudi Arabia's flagship investment conference in protest at the reported killing of Jamal Khashoggi, dealing a further blow to a high-profile event tagged as Davos in the Desert.

United States lawmakers have called on President Trump to impose sanctions, Germany, France and England called for a "credible" investigation, and many western companies, executives and media companies have pulled out of an event later this month that the crown price organized to promote investment in the country.

"The King has ordered the Public Prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi matter based on the info from the joint team in Istanbul", a Saudi official, not authorised to speak publicly, told Reuters.

Turkish officials now believe Khashoggi was most likely tortured and killed inside the consulate and then dismembered and his remains smuggled out of the building.

Trump tweeted Monday that he had spoken with the Saudi king, "who denies any knowledge" of what happened to Khashoggi.

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Trump said he didn't "want to get into (Salman's) mind", but he added, "it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers".

The Saudi foreign ministry said Mr Salman affirmed his country's "solid" relations with Turkey in the phone call with Mr Erdogan.

Saudi Arabia has responded to Western statements by saying it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions "with greater action", and Arab allies rallied to support it, setting up a potential showdown between Saudi Arabia and its main Western allies. American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain have jointly called for a "credible investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance.

Saudi Arabia appears to be increasingly cornered. But it has rapidly become a vehicle for those firms to express their concerns over Khashoggi's disappearance.

The New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg, CNN and CNBC have all cancelled as media sponsors while Sir Richard Branson has suspended Virgin's ties with Saudi, as have Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Trump's comments came after a telephone conversation with King Salman, father of the crown prince, the first such talks since the crisis erupted. Jeffrey Currie, the head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Inc., said Middle East tensions impacting the oil market have now "broadened to include Saudi Arabia".

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This statement came after the Saudi stock market plunged by almost 7 percent at one point on Sunday.

But while U.S. lawmakers have sparked a human rights investigation that could trigger sanctions on Riyadh, Mr Trump said he is reluctant to cancel multimillion-dollar arms sales to the Gulf state.

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