Turkey warns Saudi Arabia against stalling Khashoggi murder probe
Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP) October 29 at 9:43 AM
ISTANBUL â" Turkey's foreign minister warned Saudi Arabia on Monday against prolonging an inquiry into Jamal Khashoggi's murder, urging the kingdom to accept its âvery largeâ responsibility in investigating the writer's death as the Saudi chief prosecutor arrived in Istanbul for talks.
Saud al-Mojeb, who is leading the Saudi government probe into Khashoggi's killing, met with his Turkish counterpart for the first time Monday, Turkey's state-run news agency reported.
The outcome of the talks, which lasted more than an hour, was not immediately clear. Mojebâs arrival was the latest step in a high-stakes inquiry that could reshape the region's politics and alter Saudi Arabia's relationship with Washington.
âThe responsibility of Saudi Arabia is very large here,â Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference Monday, adding that the Saudi leadership had admitted its role in the murder and that Khashoggi's remains have still not been found.
âThis cooperation must continue,â Cavusoglu said Monday of the meeting between the two countries' prosecutors.
However, the investigation âshould not be prolonged,â he said. âAll the facts should be revealed.â
A 15-member security team killed Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist and a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered soon after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2 to retrieve paperwork for his upcoming marriage. They say his killing was carried out as part of a premeditated plot.
The Saudi government denied for weeks any knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts but later admitted that its agents had killed the veteran journalist inside the consulate. Mojeb said last week that the information he received from Turkish investigators suggested that the killing was planned.
Saudi authorities have arrested 18 suspects, fired five top officials and ordered a reorganization of the nation's intelligence agency.
Turkish prosecutors have asked Saudi Arabia to extradite the 18 suspects to Turkey as part of the investigation.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday that he has received assurances from Saudi Arabiaâs top diplomat that the kingdom would conduct a full investigation.
Mattis met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir over lunch Saturday at a security conference in Bahrain. Earlier, during a speech a t the event, Mattis condemned Khashoggiâs killing and warned that such extralegal behavior by nations risked destabilizing the Middle East.
âWe discussed it,â Mattis said Sunday, recounting his conversation with Jubeir while traveling to the Czech Republic. Their discussion, Mattis said, underscored âthe need for transparency, a full and complete investigation.â
âHe said, âWe need to know what happened.â It was very collaborative, in agreement,â Mattis added.
Before the lunchtime discussion, Jubeir had called the global reaction to Khashoggiâs killing âfairly hystericalâ in response to questions at the security conference. The top Saudi diplomat suggested that people were jumping to conclusions about guilt before Riyadh had finished its investigation.
âWe will know the truth,â Jubeir said. âWe will hold those responsible accountable. And we will put in place mechanisms to prevent it from happening again.â
[Mattis get s assurances from Saudi diplomat over âcomplete investigationâ]
Turkey says it has secret recordings of the events, which Turkish officials recently played for CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Turkeyâs well of information about the killing, which has trickled out in news reports, has put pressure on Saudi Arabia to reveal what its government knew about what appeared to be an extrajudicial state-sanctioned killing.
In particular, the incident has raised questions about whether Mohammed, the crown prince and a target of Khashoggiâs criticism, knew in advance about the gruesome plot.
Riyadhâs shifting explanations about what happened â" which President Trump described as the âworst coverup everâ â" have led to serious doubts in the United States and elsewhere about whether Riyadh can conduct a proper investigation into an incident that could implicate its leadership.
Asked at a news conference in Prague how a Saudi government investigation co uld get to the bottom of whether the crown prince was involved in ordering the killing, Mattis emphasized that evidence gathered by Turkish authorities would also be taken into account.
âTurkey, with the evidence that they have compiled, will ensure that there is more than one review of what is going on here,â Mattis said. âI am sure the investigation will include the evidence that Turkey has put forward so far.â
Saudi Arabiaâs government initially denied any knowledge of Khashoggiâs disappearance, saying he left the consulate in Istanbul. The kingdom later said the Saudi journalist died accidentally in a brawl with Saudi agents. Days later, Riyadhâs public prosecutor suggested the killing was premeditated.
Despite the outcry, Trump has ruled out cutting off arms deals with Saudi Arabia, the biggest importer of weapons from American defense contractors.
His administration has made the kingdom a linchpin in its strategy in the Middle East, wh ich includes countering Iran, brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and ending the wars in Yemen and Syria.
In response to the killing, Mattis said Saturday, the administration is pursuing âtwin imperativesâ of âprotecting America and holding accountable those responsible for this murder.â
Sonne reported from Prague.
Mattis condemns Khashoggi killing, warns such behavior threatens stability
Trump and Erdogan ask the same question: âWhereâs the body?â
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