Saudi Arabia's new foreign minister voiced defiance on Friday in the face of international outrage over critic Jamal Khashoggi's murder, rejecting the kingdom was in crisis and his predecessor was demoted. "The issue of Jamal Khashoggi... really saddened us, all of us," Ibrahim al-Assaf told news agency AFP, a day after he was appointed foreign minister in a government reshuffle. Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, was killed shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2. "But all in all, we are not going through a crisis, we are going through a transformation," he added, referring to social and economic reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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The prince, the heir to the Saudi throne, has faced intense international scrutiny over the October 2 murder of journalist Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate -- which critics say has left the oil-rich Gulf nation diplomatically weakened.
Assaf, a former finance minister who was detained last year in what Riyadh said was an anti-corruption sweep, replaced Adel al-Jubeir as foreign minister in the sweeping government shake-up ordered by King Salman.
Jubeir, who sought to defend the tainted government internationally after Khashoggi's murder, was appointed minister of state for foreign affairs, which was widely seen as a demotion.
"This is far from the truth," Assaf said.
"Adel represented Saudi Arabia and will continue to represent Saudi Arabia... around the world. We complement each other."
Khashoggi was critical of Prince Mohammed and the country’s intervention in Yemen. Prince Mohammed has overseen Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war effort, a highly controversial intervention to bolster President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government in the face of an insurgency by Huthi rebels.
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Jamal Khashoggi was highly critical of the Saudi crown prince and had labelled him a “beast” and “pac-man” adding that “more victims he eats, the more he wants,” as reported by news agency ANI. As many as 400 WhatsApp messages were exchanged between Khashoggi and Canada-based activist and fellow Saudi exile Omar Abdulaziz. A number of messages were believed to be intercepted by Saudi officials this year in August, prompting Khashoggi to write “God help us”. He was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two months later on October 2.