Saudi Arabia strikes back at USA over political rhetoric, threatens oil stability

Brian Snyder  ReutersSen. Jeff Flake speaks at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester N.H. Oct. 1 2018

Saudi Arabia, which provided much of the funding for the SoftBank Vision Fund, is seeing a growing number of attendees pull out of the "Davos in the Desert" investment conference after the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist.

"There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and - if relevant - to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account", the countries said in a joint statement. Benchmark Brent crude is trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has criticized OPEC and Saudi Arabia over rising prices.

"No matter how important they may be to our Iranian strategy", he added, "our ability to be a voice for human rights - and to go after regimes like [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, like what China does, like what [President Nicolas] Maduro does in Venezuela - all of that is undermined and compromised if we are not willing to confront something as atrocious as what's allegedly happened here".

Saudi Arabia has dismissed the allegations that Khashoggi, who has been critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was brutally killed during an October 2 visit to the consulate and stressed he left safely.

Earlier on Sunday, the Saudi stock market plunged almost seven percent amid fears of imminent sanctions by the U.S. after President Donald Trump threatened a severe punishment if the kingdom was found responsible for the journalist's disappearance.

SoftBank Group Corp has been battered over the past two weeks as technology stocks plummet globally and the outcry over a missing Saudi Arabian journalist escalates into a global controversy.

"There's something really bad and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we're going to have to see", Trump said.

"The anti-Saudi campaign will not impinge on the Kingdom's central role in the region which is rooted in logic and moderation", he said.

US President Donald Trump has threatened "severe punishment" if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, though he said Washington would be "punishing" itself if it halted military sales to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has pledged to retaliate economically for any US punitive action.

There's now some doubt about whether US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will attend the Riyadh conference. "I've heard that report but nobody's knows if it's an official report".

Trump quoted the King on Monday as saying that neither he nor his son, the crown prince, had any information about what had happened to Khashoggi.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake, members of the Foreign Relations Committee, have said Congress is prepared to move quickly and firmly if Trump fails to adequately respond to Khashoggi's disappearance.

Ties to the Gulf Kingdom extend beyond tech investment. Several business leaders and media outlets have backed out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, called the Future Investment Initiative.

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