Tape of Khashoggi killing given to Germany, France, UK – Erdogan
Recordings held by Turkey include killing itself and conversations predating operation
Turkey has given audio recordings related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi to the governments of Germany, France and Britain, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, seeking to maintain international pressure on Riyadh over the Saudi journalist’s death.
Khashoggi, a critic of de facto Saudi ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last month in a hit which Mr Erdogan says was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
His killing provoked global outrage but little concrete action by world powers against Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and a supporter of Washington’s plans to contain Iranian influence across the Middle East.
Speaking as he left Turkey to attend first World War commemorations in France being attended by President Donald Trump and European leaders, Mr Erdogan said for the first time that representatives of the three European Union states had heard the recordings.
“We gave the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, Germans, French and British, all of them. They have listened to all the conversations in them. They know,” Mr Erdogan said.
CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of Khashoggi’s death when she visited Istanbul, two sources told Reuters last month. A senior Saudi envoy was also played a recording, a source familiar with the matter said.
Mr Erdogan did not give details of the contents of the tapes on Saturday, but two sources with knowledge of the issue have told Reuters that Turkey has several audio recordings.
They include the killing itself and conversations predating the operation which Turkey subsequently uncovered, the sources said. These had led Ankara to conclude from an early stage that the killing was premeditated, despite Saudi Arabia’s initial denials of any knowledge or involvement.
Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb has since said Khashoggi’s killing was planned in advance. Another Saudi official said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the specific operation.
Mr Erdogan did not repeat on Saturday his accusation that the operation was ordered by Saudi leaders. However, he called on Riyadh to identify the killer, saying it must have been a member of a team that arrived in Turkey hours before Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“There’s no need to distort this issue, they know for certain that the killer, or the killers, is among these 15 people. Saudi Arabia’s government can disclose this by making these 15 people talk,” Mr Erdogan said.
Mr Erdogan also accused Mr Mojeb – who visited Istanbul to discuss the investigation with his Turkish counterpart and inspect the Istanbul consulate – of refusing to co-operate. “The prosecutor came to Turkey to make excuses, make things difficult,” he said.
Mr Erdogan repeated a demand for information on the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body. An adviser to the president has said the body was cut up for disposal, and Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay has called for an investigation into reports that it was then dissolved in acid.
A Turkish official said last week that Saudi Arabia had sent two people, a chemist and a toxicologist, to Istanbul a week after Khashoggi’s October 2nd killing to erase evidence, calling it a sign that top Saudi officials knew of the crime.
Saudi Arabia has said members of the team which was sent to Istanbul, and which returned shortly after the killing, have been arrested along with three others.
Following a meeting on Saturday in Paris, Mr Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron agreed that Saudi authorities needed to shed full light on Khashoggi’s murder, a French presidency source said.
They also agreed that the matter should not be allowed to cause further destabilisation in the Middle East and that it could create an opportunity to find a political resolution to the war in Yemen, according to the official.
Mr Erdogan earlier said officials from Saudi Arabia had listened to the audio recordings at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
He told reporters Saudi Arabia had to “act fairly” and disclose those responsible for the October 2nd killing of The Washington Post journalist, in order to rid itself of “suspicion”.
The existence of the recordings had been leaked to the media but not openly confirmed until now.
Turkey says Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered at the consulate as part of a premeditated killing.
Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include the 15 members of the alleged assassination squad.
Saudi Arabia had insisted for weeks after Mr Khashoggi disappeared that he had walked out of the consulate, before changing its account to say he died in a brawl.
Last month, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Turkish evidence indicates that Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, shifting its explanation in an apparent effort to ease international outrage over the death. Saudi officials have characterised the killing as a rogue operation carried out by Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. – Reuters/AP