Saudi Arabia must prove its claim about Khashoggi, Turkey's President Erdoğan says
Saudi Arabian officials must prove that journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has been missing since last week, had left the Istanbul consulate, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
"We have to get an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible. The consulate officials cannot save themselves by simply saying 'he has left'," Erdoğan said during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest on Oct. 8.
"If he left, you have to prove it with footage. Those who ask Turkish authorities where he is should ask what happened," Erdoğan added.
Erdoğan also said that there are some 3.5 million Syrian migrants in Turkey; some 250,000 have returned to Jarabulus, Afrin, and Al-Bab, and more than 60,000 to Idlib.
While Erdoğan said Turkey "still shows patience" toward the European Union, Orban accused the bloc of being "insincere" with Ankara in its accession process.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has become involved in the case of Khashoggi.
The intelligence agency will help police gather evidence regarding the investigation initiated by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Members of the police and MİT will reportedly jointly analyze surveillance videos of the consulate’s entrance and exits as well as the airports in Istanbul and gather any information that might help the case.
Khashoggi, a journalist and regular columnist for the Washington Post, failed to emerge after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Turkish police investigating the case had said in a statement on Oct. 6 that 15 Saudis, including several officials, had arrived in Istanbul on two planes and entered the consulate while Khashoggi was inside.
Turan Kışlakçı, the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, told broadcaster NTV on Oct. 7 there were unconfirmed reporters that the journalist’s body was dismembered at the consulate, with each piece later allegedly being taken away separately.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation on the day of the incident while the consulate also said on Twitter that it was working in coordination with Turkish authorities.
On Oct. 8, Turkey also asked for permission to search the Saudi Arabian consulate. The request was made after the Foreign Ministry on Oct. 7 summoned Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Ankara Waleed A. M. El-Hereiji for the second time.
“Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal invited Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the ministry yesterday. Our expectation of full cooperation during the investigation process was conveyed to him,” a Turkish diplomatic source was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu Agency.
CHP demands explanation on Saudi journalist
A lawmaker of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said on Oct. 8 that Riyadh’s statements on the case were “inadequate.”
“We do not hear that Saudi Arabia made an adequate explanation on this issue,” Öztürk Yılmaz told a news conference in the capital Ankara.
“Our officials [in the Turkish government] should investigate the issue and share it with the public,” Yılmaz said.
He said if allegations of the Saudi journalist’s murder are true, it is a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and those who violate it should leave Turkey.
The Saudi writer spent last year in the U.S in self-imposed exile, after he fled the kingdom amid a crackdown on intellectuals and activists who criticized the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi’s disappearance could put pressure on the Saudi crown prince, who has promoted an image of himself as a reformer and a reliable Western ally.
Journalists and activists gathered outside the Saudi consulate on Oct. 8 demanding information on Khashoggi’s fate.
“We would like to know exactly what happened inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance,” said Mohamed Okad, a friend of Khashoggi and founder of Insight into Crisis, a conflict advisory group.
“We demand from the international community to pressure Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman to tell us exactly what happened.”
Among the protesters was Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni journalist and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner. She accused Saudi Arabia of “state terrorism” and called on the international community to take action against the kingdom.
Turkish President Erdoğan said on Oct. 7 he was “personally” following the case and added that he still hoped for a positive outcome to the matter.
“God willing, we will not be faced with an undesirable situation,” Erdoğan said, calling Khashoggi “a journalist and a friend.”
“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” the president said, while answering reporters’ questions in the capital Ankara.
“It is very, very upsetting for us that it happened in our country,” he said.
Trump ally warns of 'devastating' impact
A top Senate ally of President Donald Trump warned Oct. 8 of a "devastating" impact on the US alliance with Saudi Arabia if allegations are confirmed that the kingdom killed Khashoggi.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Riyadh must provide "honest answers."
Graham said his position was shared by Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ben Cardin, a senior Democrat on the panel.
"We agree that if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the US-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid -- economically and otherwise," Graham tweeted.
"Our country’s values should be and must be a cornerstone of our foreign policy with foes and allies alike," he said.
Trump and his administration have not commented on the fate of Khashoggi, whom Saudi Arabia insists left the consulate.
Graham has developed a close relationship with Trump, especially on defense policy.
A military hawk, Graham has enthusiastically supported Trump’s policy of working with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states to contain the influence of Iran.