Ankara, Oct 23 (AFP):-
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that the “savage murder” of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was meticulously planned, demanding that all those linked to the killing face punishment.
Erdogan had promised that his speech in Ankara would give the “naked truth” about the killing and he gave a host of new details while still saying Turkey wanted answers to key questions, including who gave the orders.
Hours before Erdogan delivered his speech to ruling party lawmakers in Ankara, a major Saudi investment forum opened in Riyadh under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.
The murder of the Washington Post contributor has severely dented the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.
With international pressure mounting, Saudi Arabia’s cabinet on Tuesday said it would hold accountable all those behind the murder “no matter who they may be”.
Erdogan outlined the steps taken by what he said was a 15 person team who came from Riyadh planning to kill Khashoggi, including carrying out reconnaissance outside Istanbul and then deactivating security cameras at the consulate.
He said that 18 suspects already detained by Saudi Arabia should be extradited to Istanbul to face trial over the killing and called for an investigation into those who have “even the slightest link” to the “savage murder”.
But Erdogan did not confirm or even mention some of the most striking claims that appeared in the Turkish press over the last days, notably that Khashoggi’s body was cut up into multiple pieces or that there is an audio recording of the murder.
The president himself admitted that several questions remain unanswered.
“These (15) people, from whom did they get orders and came there? We are seeking answers,” he asked.
Taking aim at the inconsistent position of Riyadh in the days after the murder he added: “Why when the murder was clear, why were so many inconsistent statements made?”
Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech. 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 the guilty.
“The conscience of humanity will only be satisfied when those who ordered (the murder) and those who carried it out answer for their actions.”
He said no Saudi linked to the murder should enjoy diplomatic immunity as set out by the Vienna Convention.
“The Vienna Convention and other international regulations don’t allow for a savage murder to be protected from investigation by diplomatic immunity.”
Erdogan’s statements still appeared to contradict the version of Saudi Arabia, which only confirmed the killing more than two weeks after the event and indicated he was killed in a brawl at the consulate.
But Jana Jabbour, a professor at Sciences Po university in Paris, told AFP that Erdogan could have chosen much sharper rhetoric against Riyadh, indicating the two nations were talking behind the scenes.
“Erdogan’s very moderate speech shows that a deal has been reached,” she told AFP.
The killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies who are also key weapons suppliers of the kingdom.
US President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied” with Riyadh’s explanations.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.
A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.
The case has shone the spotlight on the crown prince, who was credited with reforms, including giving women the right to drive, but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder — a claim Riyadh denies.
The timing of the controversy could not be worse for Prince Mohammed as a key investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, began in Riyadh, overshadowed by big name cancellations.
Dozens of executives, including from banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, ride-hailing app Uber and Western officials such as International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII).
French energy giant Total’s head Patrick Pouyanne and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan however were attending.
Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih admitted: “We are going through a crisis.”
Despite also pulling out of the summit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh.
Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said procedures would be put in place to “ensure that something like this can never happen again”.
The whereabouts of Khashoggi’s corpse is still unknown.
Turkish police have found an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul and are awaiting Saudi permission to search it.
CNN broadcast images apparently showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes, exiting the consulate.