Saudi Arabia warned it would retaliate against any sanctions imposed on the oil-rich kingdom over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the Riyadh stock market plunged on growing investor jitters.
From tech tycoons to media giants, a host of Western companies are now distancing themselves from the Gulf state, imperiling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s much-hyped economic reform drive.
US President Donald Trump has threatened the kingdom with “severe punishment” if Khashoggi, who has been critical of Prince Mohammed, was killed inside its Istanbul mission as reported by several media outlets.
But Riyadh vowed to hit back on Sunday against any punitive measures.
“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats or attempts to undermine it whether through threats to impose economic sanctions or the use of political pressure,” an official said, according to state news agency SPA.
The official said Riyadh would “respond to any action with a bigger one”, pointing out that the oil superpower “plays an effective and vital role in the world economy”.
According to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television, the kingdom has “over 30 measures” it could implement.
Following Riyadh’s assertion it would retaliate, Britain, France and Germany released a joint statement saying they were treating Khashoggi’s disappearance “with the utmost seriousness”.
“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.”
This message had been conveyed “directly to the Saudi authorities”, said the statement, signed by Britain’s foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian and Germany’s Heiko Maas.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished after entering the consulate on October 2.
Saudi Arabia insists Khashoggi left the building safely and dismissed accusations that authorities had ordered his murder by a hit squad as “lies and baseless allegations”.
Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the mission and claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.
A Saudi dissident in Quebec said on Sunday he believes the kingdom hacked his phone and listened to calls he had with Jamal Khashoggi prior to the journalist’s disappearance.
“For sure, they listened to the conversation between me and Jamal and other activists, in Canada, in the States, in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia,” Omar Abdulaziz said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Saudi King Salman spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone on Sunday, the Saudi foreign ministry said, telling Erdogan: “No-one will get (to) undermine the strength of this relationship.”
According to a Turkish presidential source, who asked not to be named, Erdogan and the king discussed “the issue of shedding light on the case of Jamal Khashoggi” and also emphasized the “importance of creating a joint working group within the framework of the investigation.”