Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday the "savage murder" of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was meticulously planned, and demanded that all those linked to the killing face punishment.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday the “savage murder” of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was meticulously planned, and demanded that all those linked to the killing face punishment. Erdogan, who had promised that his speech to lawmakers in Ankara would reveal the “naked truth” about the killing, did provide a host of new details. But the president acknowledged Turkey was still searching for answers to key questions, including who gave the order. After more than two weeks of near silence, Saudi Arabia on Saturday admitted that Khashoggi, 59, was killed in its Istanbul consulate.
A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi disappeared after he entered the consulate on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage. Erdogan’s revelations of careful planning contradicted the Saudi version of an operation gone wrong.
Vice President Mike Pence vowed Tuesday the United States would “demand answers” from Riyadh. The murder of the Washington Post contributor has severely dented the international reputation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The killing also overshadowed a major investment forum that opened in Riyadh Tuesday.
G7 foreign ministers meeting in London condemned, in a joint statement, the killing of Khashoggi and said Saudi Arabia’s explanations leave “many questions unanswered”. Erdogan outlined the steps taken by what he said was a 15-person team that came from Riyadh planning to kill Khashoggi, including carrying out reconnaissance outside Istanbul and deactivating security cameras at the consulate. He said that 18 suspects detained by Saudi Arabia should be extradited to Istanbul to face trial over the killing and called for an investigation into those with “even the slightest link” to the case. But the Turkish leader did not mention some of the most striking claims that appeared in the Turkish press in recent days, notably that Khashoggi’s body was cut up into multiple pieces, and that there is an audio recording of the murder.
Erdogan did confirm that a Saudi official played the role of body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalists clothes upon leaving the consulate, pretending to be him. The whereabouts of Khashoggi’s corpse remain unknown. Turkish police were searching an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul.
Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name. But he said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father, Saudi King Salman in the probe and vowed full retribution for all those guilty of the “savage murder”. Jana Jabbour, a professor at Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP the fact Erdogan did not opt for sharper rhetoric against Riyadh suggested the two nations were talking behind the scenes.
“Erdogan’s very moderate speech shows that a deal has been reached,” she told AFP. Yet the killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies, who are also key weapons suppliers to the kingdom. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he likely will not cancel a 2014 blockbuster sale of armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia, arguing the contract was signed by the previous government and “that makes it extremely difficult for us to withdraw from” without incurring “exorbitant penalties”.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey although details of her trip were not immediately clear. In London, a Downing Street spokesman said Erdogan’s statement showed “there are many questions which only the Saudis have the answers to.” The Danish foreign ministry said it had summoned the Saudi ambassador in Copenhagen over the Khashoggi case.
The murder has shone the spotlight on the Saudi crown prince, who was credited with a reform drive in the kingdom – including giving women the right to drive – but is now accused of having ordering Khashoggi’s killing. Riyadh denies this. A key investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, kicked off in Riyadh on Tuesday, overshadowed by big name cancellations. Dozens of executives, including from banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan and ride-hailing app Uber pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII).
In a rare public appearance since the crisis began, Crown Prince Mohammed smiled and took selfies with delegates. Saudi organisers sought to portray it was business as usual, announcing 12 “mega deals” worth more than $50 billion in oil, gas, infrastructure and other sectors. But Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih acknowledged “we are going through a crisis”. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed met with Khashoggi family members in Riyadh while Erdogan telephoned the family to assure them the crime would be solved.