Macron seeks answers from Saudi Arabia on Khashoggi

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PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday became the latest ally to demand answers from Saudi Arabia on the fate of veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, last seen in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul more than a week ago.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks as he visits Station F startup campus in Paris, France October 9, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters

France had so far been guarded in its reaction to the disappearance; Paris and Riyadh enjoy close diplomatic ties and commercial relations spanning energy, finance and arms.

“I’m waiting for the truth and complete clarity to be established “, Macron said in an interview with France 24 television.

“What’s been mentioned is serious, very serious … France wants everything to be done so that we have all the truth on this case, of which the first elements are extremely worrying.”

Turkish sources have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the building and his body removed, allegations that Riyadh dismisses as baseless.

Macron said he would take a stance on the issue once the facts were clear and that he would discuss it with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

France is closely diplomatically aligned with Saudi Arabia, which welcomed Paris’s tough stance in nuclear negotiations with Iran and is broadly aligned with it on other Middle East conflicts.

Although France is one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Riyadh, it was left out when Crown Prince Mohammed signed business deals with the United States and Britain this year.

In a sign of growing pressure, some media companies and executives have pulled out of an investment conference in Saudi planned for Oct. 23-25 over the Khashoggi affair.

However, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and a host of French executives are all still due to attend.

In talks with humanitarian groups in September, Macron said he was skeptical of Prince Mohammed’s reform agenda and that he would not hesitate to question him if required, according to people present.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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