World News

Europe may need to change Saudi policies over Khashoggi case - Merkel ally

FILE PHOTO: Human rights activists and friends of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi hold his pictures during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe may need to amend its relations with Saudi Arabia, depending on the outcome of an investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and a critic of the Saudi crown prince, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say they believe he was killed there and his body removed, which the Saudis strongly deny.

“We have a very ambivalent picture of Saudi Arabia, especially with what has happened in the Khashoggi case in recent days, and what emerges in the coming days will complete that picture. Europe may need to correct its policies toward Saudi Arabia,” Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s conservatives, told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

“We need to use our economic leverage so that Saudi Arabia remains on a course of stability in the region,” he added.

He said it was too soon to make concrete proposals for policy changes and there were no plans for sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday gave Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt in Khashoggi’s disappearance even as U.S. lawmakers pointed the finger at the Saudi leadership and Western pressure mounted on Riyadh to provide answers.

Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliamentary foreign affairs committee and an ally of Merkel, criticised Trump’s comments.

“The decisive factor now is the behaviour of the U.S. president, who basically told the crown prince, we are giving you free rein as long as you buy enough weapons and other things from us,” he told broadcaster ARD.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Mike Collett-White