In an op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote about the questions surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s death and says the order to kill him came “from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
The piece, posted by the US newspaper that Khashoggi worked for, is the most direct accusation made by Erdogan to date against the Saudis.
Khashoggi, 59, was last seen alive around lunchtime on October 2 entering Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate, where he hoped to obtain paperwork that would have allowed him to marry Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish national. When he failed to re-emerge, his fiancée — who was waiting outside — alerted Turkish authorities that something was wrong.
Erdogan explained in the op-ed that a month after the Khashoggi’s death, Ankara still does not know where Khashoggi’s remains are. He called Khashoggi’s killing “inexplicable.”
Erdogan added that he does not believe Saudi Arabia’s monarch had Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was critical of the government, killed.
“I do not believe for a second that King Salman, the custodian of the holy mosques, ordered the hit on Khashoggi,” Erdogan wrote.
And the Turkish President said he does not believe the killing reflects Saudi Arabia’s official policy.
Erdogan wrote that the two nations “enjoy friendly relations” but added the long friendship doesn’t mean Turkey will “turn a blind eye to the premeditated murder that unfolded in front of our very eyes.”
He expressed concern that there was no action against the Saudi consul general.
“Likewise, the refusal of the Saudi public prosecutor — who recently visited his counterpart in Istanbul — to cooperate with the (Turkish) investigation and answer even simple questions is very frustrating,” he wrote.
It is as if Saudi officials are stalling, Erdogan said.
Turkish officials think Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate and that his body was dismembered, the chief prosecutor’s office in Istanbul said earlier this week.
Saudi officials have presented shifting stories about Khashoggi’s fate, initially denying any knowledge of his death, then arguing that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle, was responsible for his killing.
The killing of Khashoggi has sparked international condemnation and outrage. Riyadh has maintained that neither King Salman nor Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew of the operation to target Khashoggi.
US officials have said such a mission, which included sending 15 men from Riyadh, could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler.
Erdogan did not mention the Crown Prince in his op-ed.
Erdogan last week demanded that Saudi Arabia reveal the location of Khashoggi’s remains and hand over 18 suspects.
The Saudi government has said it will carry out a thorough and transparent investigation and that the suspects will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia.