NZ Government says killing of journalist by Saudi operatives 'deeply disturbing'

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Minister Trade and Export Growth David Parker say the New Zealand Government continues to condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives.

The death of the prominent journalist in the Turkish Consulate General in Istanbul has now been officially confirmed by the Saudi Arabian government after two weeks of denials. 

Saudi authorities have arrested 18 Saudi nationals and have dismissed several senior officials following an initial investigation of the Khashoggi case.

“With the confirmation of the death we express our deepest condolences to Mr Khashoggi’s family and friends. Those responsible for his death must be held accountable,” Mr Peters said in a statement this afternoon.

“While this is an important admission, the killing by government operatives is deeply disturbing.  Many questions remain unanswered," he said.

“We look forward to the results of the investigation being led by Turkey and we urge Saudi Arabia to implement its undertaking to participate openly and transparently in that investigation."

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials met with the Saudi Embassy in Wellington on Tuesday to raise New Zealand’s concerns over Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and have reiterated to the Saudi Embassy the need for the investigation to be full and transparent. 

Trade Minister David Parker says as previously noted no New Zealand officials will attend the upcoming Future Investment Initiative 'Davos in the Desert' event in Riyadh. 

“As for the trading relationship in the region the FTA talks remain stalled pending the Gulf Cooperation Council resolving their dispute with Qatar, which we do not expected to be resolved in the near future,” Mr Parker said.

“And the widely criticised Saudi sheep deal was an arrangement made by the previous government with a private sector partner, not with the Saudi Government,” he said.  

The New Zealand Government is awaiting the outcome of the Turkish investigation and is keeping all options for next steps under review, the statement concluded.

The Green Party says New Zealand should be leading the call for an independent international inquiry into the death of Mr Khashoggi, RNZ reports.

Green Party foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said information coming out from Turkey and Saudi Arabia could not be relied on.

"We do have to raise our voice and say no. Regime based crimes against a free press are not okay and we won't accept the word of a regime who is possibly guilty of this crime. We do want an independent investigation and if this was a targetted killing, then we'll have to act in the way that an international citizen should," she said.

Ms Ghahraman said it was likely it would be raised among coalition partners next week.