Saudi intel shocked after listening to Khashoggi killing tape: Erdoğan
A Saudi Arabian intelligence authority was shocked after listening to the audio recording of the killing of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, describing the content of the tape as “calamity” and calling on Riyadh to take concrete action against the perpetrators of the murder.
“All those who asked have listened to the audio recording of this murder. Our intelligence organization did not conceal anything. Besides Saudi Arabia, the United States, France, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom listened to this recording. The [content of the] tape is a real calamity. Even, the intelligence officer of the Saudis was shocked when he listened to the recording, as he said ‘This guy [perpetrator] is perhaps using heroin, only a man on heroin can do such a thing’,” Erdoğan told journalists on his return from Paris where he attended the centenary of the Armistice Day.
On a follow-up question on the reaction of the Saudi intelligence officer, Erdoğan repeated that the man was shocked when he listened to the recording. “Yes. The man was shocked when he listened to it. There is such a reality about this. There are those who are in efforts to distort this truth, despite the facts,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor who recently visited Istanbul to discuss the killing with his Turkish counterpart seems to delay his job even though there is sufficient evidence and information about the killing of the journalist, the president said, adding: “The crown prince says ‘I will shed light on this incident and will do whatever is necessary.’ He told my special representative. We are waiting patiently.”
Erdoğan reiterated that the perpetrators of the killing are among 18 Saudi high-ranking officials who were specifically deployed to Istanbul before Khashoggi’s visit to the Saudi consulate for his marriage procedures. “The perpetrators are surely among these 18 people. Who else? The one who gave the order. As I have already said, apart from the perpetrators, the one who gave them the order should also be found,” he said, adding that Turkey will continue to follow the case and ask questions about the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body.
Merkel suggests aid to Yemen
Speaking about his meetings with world leaders in Paris for Armistice Day, including U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdoğan said they were making assessments on the audio recordings of the killing of the Saudi journalist.
Erdoğan said he got the impression that Trump, Macron and Merkel were all very disturbed by the murder. “I think they will place this incident in a different position as a result of information provided by their intelligence. You know, the U.S. Congress demanded a briefing from the CIA. I think the perspectives will change after this briefing,” he stated.
Apart from the Khashoggi case, the leaders are also discussing the situation in Yemen, Erdoğan said, warning that millions of people may face starvation in the war-torn country. “Chancellor Merkel suggested ‘We need to prepare a serious amount of financial support for Yemen. I can’t do it alone. Let’s do it together.’ The situation may look like the one in Syria in the event that it faces starvation and misery,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan, Trump talk in Paris
Erdoğan said he had the chance to discuss bilateral relations with Trump, including the U.S.’s military partnership with the YPG in Syria, developments in Syria, Turkey’s expectations from the U.S. on FETÖ—widely believed to have orchestrated a coup attempt in 2016—and Halkbank over dinner late Nov. 10.
“The U.S. move to put bounties on three PKK figures is an overdue step. We touched on this issue as well. We evaluate this move as a game to legitimize the claims that the PKK and the PYD/YPG are separate organizations. We will surely not buy this,” Erdoğan said. Even PKK and YPG figures admit that they are in fact not different, he stressed, calling on the U.S. “to realize this fact.”
Another key subject the two discussed was the Halkbank case, Erdoğan said. Turkey expects either no fine or a very low one on Halkbank for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran between 2012 and 2015 and demands the bank’s former general manager, Hakan Atilla, gets sent back to Turkey to serve his remaining jail sentence in Turkey.
Apart from the two presidents, Turkish and American finance and foreign ministers also held phone calls on the case, Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey demanded the suspension of moving the Halkbank case from Washington to a court in New York. “When I said this, Trump said ‘I will instruct my treasury secretary to follow the case as soon as I return [to the U.S.]’ I thought this issue was solved. Why has this been delayed?’” he stated.
UN ‘willing to close Mahmour Camp’
The fight against the PKK requires an international commitment, including the United Nations’ involvement, Erdoğan stressed, referring to Mahmour Camp, a U.N.-run refugee camp in northern Iraq. “As you know, the Mahmour Camp is the PKK’s nest. There are currently 12,000-13,000 people. Who should disintegrate it? This camp had a special U.N. status. The U.N. is tired of it too. It gives the impression that it wants to disintegrate it. But what will happen after?” Erdoğan said.
An intense cooperation against the PKK’s presence in Iraq needs to be launched with Iraq’s central and regional governments and with the participation of the U.S. and other parties of the coalition forces, the president stressed.
Tension in East Med
On a recent tension in the Eastern Mediterranean over hydrocarbon explorations in the contested areas between Turkey, Greece and Greek Cyprus that involves foreign companies like the U.S.’s Exxon Mobil, Erdoğan defined the issue as a conflict of interests. “The U.S.’s Exxon Mobil and Greek Cypriots are holding a joint work. The U.S. gives the impression that ‘You can do whatever you like except entering this area.’ We have started our explorations from the north [of the Mediterranean]. We will have two explorations and two seismic research vessels. One of them will be in the Black Sea and the other in Mediterranean,” Erdoğan said.
Turkish vessels will continue their exploration activities in the region under the protection provided by the Turkish navy, Erdoğan said, stressing that the wealth of Cyprus belongs to the Cypriot people and need to be shared accordingly.
“But we don’t talk about distributing the revenues after all the agreements are done. The authorities of Turkish Cyprus should also be involved when these agreements are made,” the president stated.