Turkish president set to deliver speech revealing results of probe into journalist killing
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was set on Tuesday to reveal what he called the “naked truth” about the murder in the Saudi consulate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. His speech is set to have major implications for the case and relations with Riyadh.
Just three hours before Erdogan was expected to deliver his speech to ruling party lawmakers, a major Saudi investment forum opened under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.
The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia only confirmed the killing more than two weeks after the event.
The killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies. U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied” with Riyadh’s explanations.
A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.
Reports in pro-government Turkish media have suggested he was slowly strangled in an operation by a 15-person assassination team. But these claims have yet to be confirmed on the record and Khashoggi’s remains have also not been found.
In a sign of the significance of the speech, the Turkish presidency is unusually offering live feeds in English and Arabic translation as well as the original.
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 the investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert,” began in Riyadh, overshadowed by big name cancellations and Erdogan’s threat of revelations.
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, however, said he would attend the meeting, arguing that “empty chair politics” do not advance human rights. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh “in the current situation,” despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros’ worth of arms exports in 2018.
Despite also pulling out of the summit, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh. CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.
White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, believed to have close ties with the crown prince, said he had urged him to be “fully transparent,” stressing that “the world is watching.”
Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir vowed “a thorough and complete investigation.” He said procedures would be put in place to “ensure that something like this can never happen again.”
Omer Celik, spokesman of Erdogan’s ruling party, said the killing “was planned in an extremely savage manner,” and that “there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this.”
With Khashoggi’s remains still missing, Turkish police have found an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul, state media said.
CNN broadcast images apparently showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes, exiting the consulate. Some of the consulate employees who gave testimony to Turkish prosecutors said they had not been given holiday on the day that Khashoggi was murdered, despite reports in local media, and they finished work at 1530.
The employees were also quoted as saying that they did not “see or hear” any sounds related to a fight despite Riyadh’s claims that Khashoggi died during a “brawl.”
Erdogan has so far stopped short of directly pointing the finger at Riyadh. Analysts say he preferred to authorize the leak of incriminating information to pro-government media to put pressure on the kingdom. He has twice held telephone talks with King Salman on the crisis, interpreted by some as a bid to sideline the ageing Saudi monarch’s son Prince Mohammed.