Friday 14 December 2018

Turkey says Trump 'turning a blind eye' over murder of Saudi journalist

CIA said to have recording of crown prince telling brother to 'silence Khashoggi as soon as possible'

‘Comic’: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump talk while having Thanksgiving Day dinner at their Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida this week. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP
‘Comic’: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump talk while having Thanksgiving Day dinner at their Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida this week. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

Chris Baynes

Turkey has accused Donald Trump of turning a "blind eye" to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, called for an international investigation into the killing, describing the EU's response so far as no more than "cosmetic".

The accusation came after the US president vowed to remain a "steadfast partner" of the Saudis despite admitting the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have known about the murder plot.

In an interview with CNN Turk, Mr Cavusoglu said: "Trump's statements amount to him saying 'I'll turn a blind eye no matter what'."

He added: "Money isn't everything. We must not move away from human values."

The CIA is said to be in possession of a recording in which the crown prince is heard instructing his brother in a phone call to "silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible".

Mr Cavusoglu said the US had not informed Turkey of the recording, described as a "smoking gun" by 'Hurriyet Daily News', which reported its existence. The newspaper claimed the intelligence agency had obtained audio of the conversation through wiretapping.

The Saudi regime has denied ordering Mr Khashoggi's murder and has blamed his death on a rogue operation.

The CIA has briefed Mr Trump on its belief that the crown prince ordered the killing, but Mr Trump claimed "they had nothing definitive".

The president said: "They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings, certain ways, but I have the report. They have not concluded. Nobody's concluded. I don't know if anyone could conclude that the crown prince did it."

Earlier this week, the president conceded "it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event".

"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't," he said, adding that the Saudis were "a great ally".

"The fact is… they create tremendous wealth, really tremendous jobs in their purchases and, very importantly, they keep the oil price down," said Mr Trump.

Turkish officials have described his remarks as "comic".

Numan Kurtulmus, the deputy chairman of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, said: "It is not possible for an intelligence agency such as the CIA, which even knows the colour of the fur on the cat walking around the Saudi consulate's garden... to not know who gave this order.

"This is not credible either for US public opinion or the world public opinion."

Turkey has repeatedly said an order to kill Mr Khashoggi came from the "highest levels" of the Saudi government, although it has not directly accused the crown prince.

The crown prince has requested to meet Mr Erdogan on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 summit in Argentina, Mr Cavusoglu said.

The foreign minister added he saw no "obstacle"for a meeting between the two but added the Turkish president would make the final decision over whether to go ahead with the talks in Buenos Aires.

It would be the first official contact between the crown prince and Mr Erdogan, who has kept international pressure mounting on Saudi Arabia over the killing, since Mr Khashoggi's death.

After offering several contradictory explanations, Riyadh said last week Mr Khashoggi had been murdered and his body dismembered when "negotiations" to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

The White House has imposed penalties on 17 individuals the Saudis say were involved, but Mr Trump has come under pressure from congress to impose harsher sanctions on the regime. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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