Money Talks: US Treasury Secretary meets MBS amid Khashoggi Outrage
As pressure mounts on US President Donald Trump to punish Riyadh over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday.
A photo of Mnuchin and bin Salman together was posted by the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Twitter. During their meeting in Riyadh, the Crown Prince stressed "the importance of Saudi-US strategic partnership, where it holds an important role in the future in line with the Kingdom's #Vision2030," the ministry stated.
The meeting, which had not been specifically announced as part of Mnuchin's six-country Middle East trip, comes as Trump refuses to halt $450 billion in arms sales to Riyadh despite facing pressure from both sides of the aisle at home. Mnuchin earlier joined a host of high-profile attendees who announced they were pulling out of an upcoming major investment conference hosted by the Saudis.
The calls for the president to scrap the lucrative deals have become more vocal since the Saudi government admitted on Saturday that the Washington Post columnist had died in the consulate. The Saudis initially claimed that Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Crown Family, was killed in an impromptu "fistfight" that broke out inside the consulate, only to state later that his demise was a result of a "rogue operation" of which the Crown Prince had no prior knowledge.
While Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called into question the Saudi version of events, Trump on Monday also appeared to cast doubt on the explanation provided by Riyadh. "I am not satisfied with what I've heard," he said, referring to his phone call with bin Salman earlier on Monday.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Turkish authorities, who promised to reveal "the naked truth" behind the slain columnist's death on Tuesday, stressed that the journalist was a victim of a "Saudi hit squad."
Mnuchin, who earlier confirmed his visit to Riyadh as part of the Middle East tour, has neither issued any comment on his talks with bin Salman, nor released a photo of the meeting.
The Washington Post's correspondent Damian Paletta reported, citing Mnuchin's spokesman, that the two also touched upon the Khashoggi murder, of which there is no mention in the Saudi statement.
The news of Mnuchin meeting the Crown Prince in Riyadh has sparked a fresh wave of outrage among lawmakers and observers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT] called the meeting "a sad day for America" and a "seeming sell out."
"Are we now a pawn of Saudi propaganda?" he tweeted.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team