BRUSSELS: Germany will bar 18 Saudis from entering its territory and Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone over their alleged links to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said yesterday. Maas said the move was “coordinated very closely with” states France and Britain and the broader EU as they seek more information in Khashoggi’s death last month in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Berlin has “decided that Germany should impose an entry ban on 18 Saudi citizens, who are presumed to be in connection with this deed, in the Schengen information system,” Maas told reporters.
“We are in close coordination on this issue within the European Union,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels. “Over the weekend, we stated that we expected further steps to be taken to clarify the situation. We will follow on this closely and reserve further steps for ourselves.” The Schengen zone-which is composed of 22 EU nations and four non-EU countries. EU member Britain is not part of the passport-free Schengen zone, but shares intelligence through Shengen Information System (SIS) for law enforcement purposes.
Germany called last month for EU countries to follow its lead and suspend arms sales for the moment to Saudi Arabia, prompting a dismissive response from French President Emmanuel Macron. France is the kingdom’s second biggest customer after India. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who was critical of Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman, was killed after going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee. According to Turkish officials, an audio recording proves that Khashoggi was deliberately killed and dismembered soon after entering the consulate.
Saudi Arabia has offered shifting accounts of what happened, initially saying Khashoggi left the embassy after receiving his documents and later that he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight. In the latest version, the Saudi prosecutor said a 15-member team went to Istanbul to bring Khashoggi back to the kingdom but killed him instead in a rogue operation. The prosecutor exonerated the crown prince, after indicting 11 Saudis and sacking five officials, including two members of Prince Mohammed’s inner circle. The United States, traditionally Riyadh’s closest ally, has sanctioned 17 Saudis for the crime._ AFP