Now that the Saudis have admitted that the killing of Jamal Khashoggi was a premeditated act, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is stepping up his rhetoric, saying in a speech to AKP party officials that whoever ordered the 15-man hit squad to travel to the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2. must reveal himself.
Erdogan also demanded that the kingdom reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body, adding that the Turks have information about the killing that hasn’t been publicly disclosed. If the Saudis truly did hand over Khashoggi’s body to a “local cooperator”, as they have claimed, Erdogan demanded they share the cooperator’s identity with Turkish investigators, per Reuters. The team of Saudi intelligence agents and a doctor specializing in autopsies was lying in wait for Khashoggi when he visited the embassy on that day to pick up documents to allow him to marry his Turkish fiance.
“Who gave this order?” Erdogan said in a speech to members of his AK Party in Ankara. “Who gave the order for 15 people to come to Turkey?” he said, referring to a 15-man Saudi security team Turkey has said flew into Istanbul hours before the killing. Erdogan also said Saudi’s public prosecutor was due to meet the Istanbul prosecutor in Istanbul on Sunday.
While he has so far avoided using his name, the subtext of Erdogan’s remarks was clear: the Turkish leader insinuated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is widely suspected of ordering Khashoggi’s murder, admit to his role in the killing.
The kingdom has arrested 18 Saudi nationals and fired 5 intelligence officials in a purge that it said would help it hold the “rogue” killers accountable. MbS has been put in charge of a committee to oversee a reform of the kingdom’s intelligence service. The Saudis notoriously denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate, before changing their story, saying instead that Khashoggi had been killed during a “botched” interrogation.
According to the FT, Erdogan angrily demanded answers from the Saudis and denounced the repeated changes in their story as “childish.”
“These childish statements are not compatible with the seriousness of a [nation] state,” he said.
If they are truly responsible, Erdogan demanded that Saudi Arabia hand over the 18 suspects arrested to Turkey so that can be tried and punished in Istanbul.
“If you want to eliminate the suspicion [about you], the key question is these 18 people. If you cannot make them talk then hand them over to us. This incident happened in Istanbul. Let us put them on trial.”
In what may have been a subtle reference to his briefings with CIA director Gina Haspel, Erdogan claimed that Turkey had shared some of its undisclosed evidence with foreign officials, and that their responses had been “very interesting.”
While Erdogan has, so far, mostly held back from implicating any members of the Saudi high command, it appears he is slowly turning up his rhetoric to demand that the Crown Prince, with whom he reportedly has a frosty relationship despite MbS’s claims to the contrary, be held to account by the rest of the royal family. President Trump has also been more willing to place the blame with the Crown Prince, saying earlier this week that, whether he ordered the killing or not, Khashoggi’s death was the prince’s responsibility.
Any further clues could be revealed in the Saudi reaction, as the kingdom appears to be inching closer to the real story about what happened inside is consulate on Oct. 2.