ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that his chief prosecutor has asked his Saudi counterpart to reveal who ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The killing has sparked a global firestorm, straining Ankara’s already fraught relationship with Riyadh and pressing the Trump administration to defend its most prized Middle Eastern ally, whose leadership is suspected of sending a 15-man hit squad to carry out the killing.
“Our prosecutor asked who sent the group that came here and said that this needed to be looked at,” Erdogan told reporters as he left Ankara’s wood-paneled parliament.
“We cannot leave this issue unsolved,” he said. “We need to solve it now.”
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist, was last seen in grainy surveillance video on Oct. 2, entering Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate to retrieve paperwork for his upcoming marriage. Turkish officials say he was detained, tortured and dismembered — while his fiancee waited outside.
His remains have not been found.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, met with his Turkish counterpart for the second time Tuesday, before visiting the consulate building where the murder is alleged to have taken place, Turkish media reported. Riyadh has depicted the killing as a rogue act, arresting 18 suspects and condemning Khashoggi’s death. But Western officials have speculated that such an audacious plan — which involved flying the hit squad on private jets to Istanbul and enlisting an apparent body double to leave the consulate when the deed was done — would not have been possible without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Cooperation with Saudi Arabia, and particularly with Mohammed, sits at the heart of the Trump administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Although this latest crisis has drawn strong condemnation from both parties in Congress, there are few indications that it will fundamentally change the relationship.
In an address to parliament Tuesday, Erdogan appeared more muted in his criticism of Saudi Arabia than in previous weeks, failing to mention Khashoggi by name and falling back on earlier talking points without upping the ante.
“There is no reason to beat around the bush. Or, there is no reason to save someone from beneath this,” he said. “We must overcome this with our mechanisms of justice and politics.”
Khashoggi’s family and friends are pushing for answers. “We want everyone involved, from top to bottom, to face justice,” his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said in an emotional interview broadcast by the BBC on Monday.
Cengiz had waited outside Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2, raising the alarm when Khashoggi failed to emerge and refusing to leave until the early hours of the next morning. “We didn’t say any goodbyes,” she told the interviewer.
“At least he had someone he loved at the end of his life. Maybe that crossed his mind in his last minutes.”
Washington Post writer Zeynep Karatas contributed to this report.
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