Monday 23 September 2019

Murder tapes go global, as US and Saudis offer sop to Yemen

CATALYST: Jamal Khashoggi
CATALYST: Jamal Khashoggi

Phil Stewart and Nayera Abdallah Mahmoud in Washington and Cairo

Turkey has given recordings related to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain, said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan yesterday.

Turkish sources have said previously that authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the murder.

However, they had also initially said that Khashoggi was tortured before being murdered, only changing their story two weeks after his disappearance.

"We gave the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, Germans, French and British, all of them. They have listened to all the conversations in them. They know," Erdogan said.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi officials initially claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate, later changing their story and saying that he died in an unplanned "rogue operation". The kingdom's public prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, has since yet again changed the Saudi version of events and said he was killed in a premeditated attack.

Speaking on his departure for France to attend commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Erdogan called on Saudi Arabia to identify the killer from among a 15-man team that arrived in Turkey some days before Khashoggi's killing.

"There's no need to distort this issue, they know for certain that the killer, or the killers, is among these 15 people. Saudi Arabia's government can disclose this by making these 15 people talk," Erdogan said.

Following a meeting yesterday in Paris, Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron agreed that the Saudi authorities needed to shed full light on Khashoggi's murder.

They also agreed that the matter should not be allowed to cause further destabilisation in the Middle East and that it could create an opportunity to find a political resolution to the war in Yemen, according to the official.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia and the US agreed to end American refuelling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi insurgents.

However, the halt will have little practical effect on the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Only a fifth of coalition aircraft require in-air refuelling from the US.

The US and UK late last month called for a ceasefire in Yemen to support UN-led efforts to end the nearly four-year long war that has killed more than 10,000 people and triggered the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis.

As is usually the case in mediated conflicts, the Saudi coalition appears to be accelerating its assault before any ceasefire - to enable a better negotiating position.

This has meant increased pressure on the main port city of Hodeidah, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

UN bodies warn that an all-out attack on the Red Sea port, the entry point for 80pc of Yemen's food imports and aid relief, could trigger a famine in the impoverished country.

The World Food Programme said last week that it planned to double food assistance for Yemen, aiming to reach up to 14m people "to avert mass starvation".

Also yesterday the rebel information minister fled the country and defected to neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Abdul-Salam Ali Gaber is the most senior member of the Houthi administration to defect since civil war broke out in 2014, dealing a blow to the rebels' image.

© Reuters


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