Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he “absolutely” did not order the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
“This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government,” Bin Salman pointed out.
He described the killing of Khashoggi as a “mistake”, pledging to “take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future”.
When asked about how he did not know about the operation to kill the journalist, Bin Salman said that “it’s impossible that the three million people working for the Saudi government would send their daily reports to the leader” or the second highest person in the government.
After being questioned about the CIA's conclusion that he ordered the murder of Khashoggi, Prince Salman said that he wants "this information to be brought forward".
"If there is any such information that charges me, I hope it is brought forward publicly," he added.
Khashoggi was killed in what Riyadh called “a rogue operation” in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, having last been seen there on 2 October last year as he was obtaining the documents he needed to get married. Saudi authorities subsequently charged 11 people for the crime; the hearings in the case are still underway.
Bin Salman Reiterates Accusations Against Iran Over Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities
During the interview, Prince Salman also touched upon Iran’s alleged attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, saying that there was “no strategic goal” to do so.
“Only a fool would attack 5% of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did,” he said, in an apparent nod to Iran.
Bin Salman added that he agrees with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's description of the attack as an "act of war”.
He warned that a possible war between Saudi Arabia and Iran would mean a "total collapse of the global economy”.
“The region represents about 30% of the world's energy supplies, about 20% of global trade passages, about 4% of the world GDP. Imagine all of these three things stop,” Bin Salman said, expressing hope that Riyadh and Tehran would be able to arrive at a "political and peaceful solution" rather than a military one.
Iran has repeatedly denied all the accusations, pointing out that the Yemeni Houthi movement had claimed responsibility for the drone attack on Aramco oil facilities. The incident led to a cut in oil production totalling 5.7 million barrels per day — about half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil output.
Prince Salman Says Riyadh Wants to Negotiate End to Yemen War
In the CBS interview, Bin Salman separately underscored Riyadh’s daily efforts to “negotiate an end to the war in Yemen”.
“If Iran stops its support of the Houthi militia, the political solution will be much easier. Today we open all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen. We hope this happens today rather than tomorrow,” he emphasised.
Prince Salman added that the Saudi government tries “to turn this discussion into an actual implementation on the ground,” recalling that “the Houthis a few days ago announced a ceasefire, from their side,” which he said is seen by Riyadh as “a positive step to push for more serious and active political dialogue”.
Yemen has been engulfed in an armed conflict between the government forces, led by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and Houthi Shia rebels for several years. The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis at Hadi's request since March 2015.
Prince Salman on Release of Jailed Female Activist: ‘This Decision is Not Up to Me’
Additionally, Bin Salman focused on the future of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been held in a Saudi prison for more than a year.
When asked if “it's time to let her go”, Bin Salman said the decision is up to an independent public prosecutor rather than up to him.
If the claims that she's been tortured in prison are correct, he said that he will "personally follow up on this matter."
"If this is correct, it is very heinous. Islam forbids torture. The Saudi laws forbid torture. Human conscience forbids torture,” Bin Salman underscored.
Al-Hathloul was arrested in May 2018 after a crackdown on government critics, in what was followed by her brother’s tweet in August that she rejected a deal stipulating her release in exchange for denying she was tortured in prison.