Manama, October 28: US Defence Secretary James Mattis said here that Washington was committed to "holding accountable" those responsible for killing Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose death "undermines regional stability".
Mattis, speaking to an international security conference on Saturday, never mentioned Saudi Arabia directly in connection with the October 2 killing of Khashoggi, a Virginia resident who was a columnist for The Washington Post, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, reports The New York Times.
But he said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had revoked the visas of Saudis suspected in the killing and that Trump had vowed "to get to the bottom of it" and get Congress involved.
"Failure of any one nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most," Mattis said.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who also attended the conference, told the media later that an inquiry into Khashoggi's death would take time and denounced what he described as "media hysteria" over the killing. Saudi Arabia Confirms Journalist Jamal Khashoggi is Dead, Cause Listed as ‘Fist-fight’.
In his remarks here in Bahrain, home to the Navy's Fifth Fleet, Mattis also sought to tamp down increasing concerns that if Washington reduces its security role in the Middle East, Russia would move quickly to fill the vacuum.
The US has not had an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf since March, and the Pentagon is pulling Patriot missile-defence systems out of Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain as part of a strategic realignment of firepower away from the Middle East and toward Russia and China.
"Russia's presence in the region cannot replace the longstanding, enduring and transparent," he said.
Even before Khashoggi's disappearance, relations between Washington and Riyadh had been on edge, The New York Times said.
This month, President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia's King Salman might not last two weeks without the US, escalating pressure on the Saudis to curb rising oil prices and to pay for military protection. Trump has condemned Saudi Arabia's shifting account of the killing of Khashoggi as "the worst cover-up ever".