Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has revealed he urged Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman to be “fully transparent” about missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi as international pressure for answers continued to grow.
Mr Kushner, 37, who has developed a close relationship with the 33-year-old Prince Mohammed, said he had warned him that the “world was watching” and that Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance was “very serious”.
The comments came during a rare public interview with Mr Kushner, who is married to the US president's daughter Ivanka Trump, as world leaders and ministers continued to demand more clarity from the Saudi leadership.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, floated the possibility of cancelling a multi-billion dollar defence contract with Saudi Arabia, while other leading overseas politicians called for a "credible" explanation for what happened.
Mr Khashoggi, who was living in America and writing for The Washington Post, has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, three weeks ago.
Turkish officials claim he was killed and dismembered in the consulate. Saudi officials recently admitted Mr Khashoggi died there but claimed it was an accident after a row broke out.
Mr Kushner’s relationship with Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, has been in the spotlight in recent weeks.
The Trump administration’s decision to strategically align itself with Saudi Arabia has also been called into question.
And on Monday, Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, attracted widespread criticism for travelling to Riyadh to meet the crown prince behind closed doors.
Mr Kushner, who is a White House adviser with a brief that includes the Middle East, had cultivated a close relationship with the Prince Mohammed and has reportedly stressed the importance of Saudi-US relations during White House discussions in recent days.
Making a rare public appearance, Mr Kushner struck a tough line during a question and answer session with a CNN presenter when talking about Mr Khashoggi’s death.
Asked what he had told the crown prince, Mr Kushner said: "Just to be transparent, to be fully transparent. The world is watching. This is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation."
Asked if Prince Mohammed has listened to his advice, Mr Kushner said: "We'll see." He also said that the US had its “eyes wide open” and stressed that the country was not “reliant” on Saudi Arabia for its strategy in the Middle East.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, said Mr Khashoggi’s death was “extremely serious” and vowed the country would take "necessary measures, if required” once the results of investigations into the incident were completed.
Lolwah al-Khater, a spokesman for Qatar’s foreign minister, said the incident should be a “wake-up call for everyone”. Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, said he was awaiting “credible answers” before deciding how to act.