Saudi prince vows justice over Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has vowed the killers of Jamal Khashoggi will be brought to justice, in his first public comments since the journalist’s murder sparked global condemnation.

Striking a defiant tone, Prince Mohammed has told international investors at a major conference in Riyadh the furore over Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul will not derail the kingdom’s reform drive.

His comments came hours after US President Donald Trump was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the crown prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.

“We will prove to the world that the two governments (Saudi and Turkish) are co-operating to punish any criminal, any culprit and at the end justice will prevail,” Prince Mohammed said to applause on Wednesday.

The world’s top oil exporter has come under increasing pressure over the death of Khashoggi, a columnist and one of the crown prince’s most prominent critics.

The crisis has strained Riyadh’s ties with the West and led dozens of Western politicians, top world bankers and company executives to boycott the Future Investment Initiative conference that opened in Riyadh on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron told King Salman in a phone call on Wednesday that Paris, in co-ordination with partners, could take action against those held responsible for the murder, the Elysee palace said.

However, French reaction has been relatively guarded, as Paris tries to retain its influence with Riyadh and protect commercial relations spanning energy, finance and arms sales.

Saudi Arabia first denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance but a Saudi official eventually attributed his death on October 2 to a botched attempt to return him to the kingdom.

Turkey has dismissed Saudi efforts to blame rogue operatives and urged the kingdom to search “top to bottom” for those responsible.

Britain, also a major weapons supplier to the kingdom, said Riyadh’s explanations lacked credibility.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that Britain would prevent all suspects in the killing entering the country.

The Trump administration and the US defence industry are scrambling to save a much-touted $US110 billion ($A155 billion) arms package for Saudi Arabia.

could follow Germany’s lead and suspend new arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the crime, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said.

Also on Wednesday, Erdogan and the Saudi crown prince had a telephone conversation about “joint efforts” to shed light on the killing of Khashoggi, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu, marking the first contact between the Turkish and Saudi leaders since the start of the case.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani called on the United States and the European Union not to back down from putting pressure on Saudi Arabia – an arch-enemy of Iran.