Dominic Raab says Saudi explanation for death of Jamal Khashoggi ‘not credible’ - but UK won't 'terminate relationship'

A man enters Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul (Lefteris Pitakaris/AP) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

Saudi Arabia’s explanation about the death of a dissident journalist is not credible but the UK is not preparing to terminate it relationship with the state, a Cabinet minister has said.

Also on Sunday, the foreign ministers of the UK, Germany and France issued a joint statement in which they "condemned in the strongest possible terms" the death of Jamal Khashoggi and called for "credible facts" to be released about what happened to him.

The Gulf kingdom admitted on Friday that Jamal Khashoggi was killed at its Istanbul consulate - but claimed he died after a fight broke out.

CCTV shows Khashoggi entering the Saudi embassy on October 2. Credit: CCTV/TRT World via AP

However, in comments on Sunday, Foreign Minister Adel el Jubeir claimed Saudi Arabia does not know how the 59-year-old was killed or where his body is.

In an interview with Fox News, he described Mr Khashoggi's death as an "aberration, a mistake" that the crown prince was not aware of, and promised the journalist's family that those responsible would be punished.

The minister said initial "reports indicated that he [Mr Khashoggi] left the consulate and then as I mentioned, our investigating team in Turkey discovered there were elements which contradict what was in the report.

"When we ascertained ourselves of this fact then the prosecutor launched his investigation and he determined that the report was originally filed was wrong, and there was something that happened that was criminal."

However, the international community has expressed doubts about the Saudi version of events.

CCTV purportedly shows Khashoggi entering the Saudi embassy. Credit: CCTV/TRT World via AP

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said it was a “terrible case” but the UK government was “not throwing our hands in the air” and ending Britain's relationship with the Saudis because thousands of jobs depended on relations with the country.

He said the government supported an investigation into the killing.

Asked if he believed the Saudi government’s explanation, Mr Raab said: “No, I don’t think it’s credible.”

“We are not throwing our hands in the air and terminating the relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just because of the huge number of British jobs that depend on it but also because if you exert influence over your partners you need to be able to talk to them,” he told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Credit: PA

The government has come under pressure from Labour and the Liberal Democrats to ban arms sales to the kingdom but Mr Raab insisted the UK’s export regime was “one of the most rigorous” in the world.

“The problem with Labour’s position is it would cost thousands of British jobs. So, what we would rather do is support the investigation, find out what happened.”

Also on Sunday, in their joint statement, the foreign ministers of the UK, Germany and France called for an investigation into Mr Khashoggi's death, saying this is "an urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened on October 2 - beyond the hypotheses that have been raised so far in the Saudi investigation, which need to be backed by facts to be considered credible.

"We will ultimately make our judgement based on the credibility of the further explanation we receive about what happened and our confidence that such a shameful event cannot and will not ever be repeated.

"We therefore ask for the investigation to be carried out thoroughly until responsibilities are clearly established and that there is proper accountability and due process for any crimes committed...

"Nothing can justify this killing and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms."

Jeremy Hunt, Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian continued: "Defending freedom of expression and a free press are key priorities for Germany, the United Kingdom and France.

"The threatening, attacking or killing of journalists, under any circumstances, is unacceptable and of utmost concern to our three nations."

Donald Trump met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March. Credit: AP

US President Donald Trump, a key ally of the Saudis, initially said he thought their explanation for Mr Khashoggi's death was credible.

However, on Saturday night he said he was "not satisfied" with their account and wants to learn more about what happened.

Mr Trump said he "would like to find out" where Mr Khashoggi’s body is.

Turkish officials have said they will not allow a "cover-up".

Germany’s foreign minister called into question the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

CCTV purportedly shows Khashoggi entering the Saudi embassy. Credit: CCTV/TRT World via AP

Heiko Maas told German public broadcaster ARD that “as long as these investigations continue, as long as we don’t know what happened there, there’s no basis for reaching positive decisions on arms exports to Saudi Arabia”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she backs a freeze on German arms exports to Saudi Arabia following Mr Khashoggi's death.

Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest buyers of German arms.

Asked whether German companies should decline attending a business conference in Saudi Arabia next week, Mr Maas said he “certainly wouldn’t” be attending any events in Riyadh at the moment.

The European Union said the emerging details of Mr Khashoggi’s death are “deeply troubling” and that a “continued thorough, credible and transparent investigation” is needed.