Treasury's Mnuchin meets with Saudi Crown Prince amid outcry over Khashoggi

Meeting stressed importance of partnership

By DONNA BORAK, CNN
@KSAmofaEN/Twitter via CNN

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday amid an international outcry over dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death.

(CNN) - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday amid an international outcry over dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death.

A photograph of the meeting between Mnuchin and the Crown Prince was posted on Twitter by the Saudi foreign ministry.

Saudi officials said the meeting "stresses the importance of the Saudi-US strategic partnership, where it holds an important role in the future in line with the Kingdom's #Vision2030," according to its caption.

Mnuchin's arrival in Riyadh comes after he joined other government officials from multiple countries as well as top banking and finance executives in bowing out of a high-profile investor conference in Saudi Arabia amid growing controversy over Khashoggi's disappearance and apparent murder.

The Washington Post columnist was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, the day a Saudi hit squad allegedly arrived at the consulate. The Saudis on Friday said his death was an accident and say they continue to investigate.

President Donald Trump said Monday he remains unhappy with the official Saudi explanation, but reiterated that he doesn't want to suspend relations between the two countries, including a multibillion-dollar arms deal inked last year.

The Treasury Department did not release its own photo of the Mnuchin-Mohammed meeting in Riyadh, which is part of Mnuchin's week-long multi-country trip to the Middle East. Treasury did post photographs of his meetings with other top leaders in Israel and Jordan.

Tony Sayegh, a top Treasury spokesman, said Mnuchin and the crown prince discussed combating terrorism financing, implementing sanctions on Iran and the Khashoggi investigation.

In an earlier tweet, Sayegh stressed that Mnuchin's meeting in Saudi was a part of six-country trip, including a visit to the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center. He said the secretary was also holding meetings in preparation of Iranian sanctions that kick in on November 4.

Last year, the US government opened the Terrorism Financing Targeting Center in Saudi Arabia to share information about terrorism financing, which the secretary has pledged to visit once a year. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates are also members of the group.

Mnuchin's trip to Riyadh comes just two weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to meet with the crown prince.

While the President has tried to refrain from spoiling economic ties with the Saudi government in recent days he's offered fresh skepticism over an evolving explanation for Khashoggi's death.

He told reporters on Monday he wasn't pleased with Riyadh's versions of events and that he was eagerly awaiting further details.

"I am not satisfied with what I heard," Trump told reporters at the White House, echoing concerns the President has aired mostly in private. He has suggested that Saudi officials, including the crown prince, have not been fully transparent in explaining what happened to the dissident journalist and which officials were involved.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia offered an official account alleging the death came after an altercation inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The kingdom said Khashoggi died after a fistfight with a team of officials who were working to secure his return to Saudi Arabia. They said a full report on the kingdom's intelligence services would come in a month.

The President said he expected to learn "very soon" of the outcome of the Saudi-Turkish investigation.

Mnuchin nevertheless told reporters on Sunday that it would be "premature" to discuss whether the United States would impose sanctions on the Saudi government in response to the Khashoggi's death.

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