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In Riyadh, Britain's Hunt calls for Khashoggi Justice, End to Yemen War

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 12, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
RIYADH, Nov 12 (Reuters) -

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt met Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh on Monday on a visit to press for an end to the war in Yemen and for Saudi leaders to cooperate with an investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Hunt is due to meet later with the kingdom's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a main proponent of the Saudi military intervention in Yemen.

The visit comes as Riyadh, already under scrutiny for civilian deaths in Yemen air strikes, is facing global criticism and potential sanctions over Khashoggi's killing inside its Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2.

"The human cost of war in Yemen is incalculable: with millions displaced, famine and disease rife and years of bloodshed, the only solution is now a political decision to set aside arms and pursue peace," Hunt said in a statement ahead of the trip.

YEMEN -- A severely malnourished girl is weighed at the Aslam Health Center in Hajjah, August 25, 2018
YEMEN -- A severely malnourished girl is weighed at the Aslam Health Center in Hajjah, August 25, 2018

"So today I am travelling to the Gulf to demand that all sides commit to this process."

Britain is major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia and opposition politicians and human rights groups have called on the government to cease such sales due to the high civilian death toll in air raids by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The government has said the arms sales earn Britain billions of pounds and guarantee jobs in the industry, and its response to the Khashoggi killing must bear this in mind.

After arriving, Hunt discussed bilateral relations and regional events with King Salman in a meeting attended by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Britain's ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, state news agency SPA reported.

The foreign ministry said he would also meet Crown Prince Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen and Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says Khashoggi's murder was ordered at the highest levels of the Saudi government. After initial denials, Saudi officials acknowledged it was planned in advance but said Crown Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the specific operation.

The killing has provoked little concrete action by world powers against Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and a supporter of Washington's plans to contain Iranian influence across the Middle East.

Britain has called for a "credible" investigation and has pushed for new action at the United Nations Security Council to try to end hostilities in Yemen and find a political solution to the war there.

Hunt, the first British minister to visit Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi's murder, will also call on the authorities to do more to provide accountability for his family.

"The international community remain united in horror and outrage at the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi one month ago. It is clearly unacceptable that the full circumstances behind his murder still remain unclear," he said.

"We encourage the Saudi authorities to cooperate fully with the Turkish investigation into his death, so that we deliver justice for his family and the watching world."

Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey had given recordings related to the killing to countries including Britain.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh Editing by Angus MacSwan)