WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday the U.S. will hold accountable all those involved in the killing of a dissident Saudi journalist, in a telephone call that also took in the conflict in Yemen.
The killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul and the war in Yemen, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine, are two of the main sources of strain in the decades-old alliance between Washington and Riyadh.
Prince Mohammed is controversially linked to both: he has played a direct role in overseeing Saudi Arabia's Yemen intervention and has also been accused of orchestrating the October 2 murder of Khashoggi, who was a U.S. resident.
"The secretary emphasized that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The top U.S. diplomat has previously said Khashoggi's killing "violates the norms of international law," and that the U.S. was reviewing possible sanctions on individuals identified as having been involved.
But Pompeo and U.S. President Donald Trump have also both emphasized America's important commercial, strategic and national security relationships with the oil-rich kingdom.
Upping the pressure on Saudi Arabia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Turkey had shared recordings related to Khashoggi's murder with Riyadh, Washington and other capitals, without giving details of their specific contents.
After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted the 59-year-old journalist had been murdered at its diplomatic mission in what it termed a "rogue" operation.
Ankara has been demanding, to date without success, the extradition of those involved in the killing.
Reduced US role in Yemen
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was critical of Prince Mohammed and the country's intervention in Yemen, a conflict which also came up during the call, said Nauert.
Pompeo "reiterated the United States' calls for a cessation of hostilities and for all parties to come to the table to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict," she said.
Pompeo has previously called for an end to the fighting in the impoverished Arab state, saying that Shi’ite Houthi rebels must stop missile and drone strikes from areas they control, and that the Saudi-led coalition must subsequently halt strikes in populated areas.
Pompeo's latest remarks come just days after the announcement of the end of a controversial refueling arrangement between the US and the Saudi-led coalition carrying out strikes in Yemen -- a step that lessens American involvement in the war.
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said he supported Saudi Arabia's decision after the official Saudi Press Agency said the coalition asked for the "cessation of inflight refueling support" from the United States.
The end of the arrangement comes amid ongoing international outcry over Saudi actions in Yemen, particularly after a string of high-profile coalition strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children.
The Pentagon had provided refueling capabilities for about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen, supporting a highly controversial intervention led by Riyadh to bolster President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government in the face of an insurgency by the Houthis - a conflict that has left nearly 10,000 people dead.