Turkey’s president accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s “closest” associates of being behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an attempt to keep the pressure on the de facto ruler of the oil-rich kingdom.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, coming closer than he ever has to accusing the crown prince of the killing, cited audio capturing the final moments of Khashoggi’s life as he was strangled by a Saudi hit team dispatched from Riyadh to confront him in his own nation’s official diplomatic outpost in Istanbul.
“We have learned this from the audio recordings: of those who arrive, those closest to the crown prince played the most active role,” Mr Erdogan said on Friday, according to the official Anatolia news agency. “The perpetrators are clear to me.”
After denying being behind the killing for weeks, Saudi Arabia insisted a rogue team of operatives were responsible for the murder and identified a number of its citizens as being responsible, but the kingdom has so far resisted calls to extradite them to Turkey or submit to an international investigation.
Mr Erdogan’s statement suggests he has been emboldened to renew pressure on Saudi Arabia following the US Senate on Thursday unanimously accusing Prince Mohammad of being behind Khashoggi’s murder. The senators’ declaration took place after a historic bipartisan vote called for an end to American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Saudi and Saudi-owned pan-Arabic media largely ignored the Senate votes, which represented an unprecedented blow to the reputation of the kingdom. But Saudi media celebrated a UN-brokered peace deal over the battle for the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, which was penned on Thursday in Sweden.
Turkey’s president has been reluctant to bluntly accuse Prince Mohammad of the killing, to avoid a confrontation with the regional power and to maintain Arabian Peninsula investment into the Turkish economy. He cited the statement of Nikki Haley, outgoing US envoy to the United Nations, this week holding the “the Saudi government” and its leadership as responsible for the murder.
“She openly named people,” Mr Erdogan said. “This shows something. Now, the whole incident is fully resurfacing.”
He added: “It’s clear where this business will end up.”
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