Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Saudi Arabia reveal the location of Jamal Khashoggi’s body and hand over the suspects in his murder.
Erdogan said that the top Saudi prosecutor will travel to Turkey on Sunday to meet with the top Istanbul prosecutor, and argued that those responsible for killing him should face trial in Turkey.
“Whatever happened, it comes down to these 18 persons. If you are determined, if you want to remove the suspicion and clear the air, these 18 persons are the bottom line to this,” Erdogan said, addressing the provincial heads of his ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara.
If the Saudis can’t make the suspects talk, then Turkey will, he said. “The incident took place in Istanbul. So, hand them to us, and let us judge them,” he said.
After Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed October 2 in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman’s media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service. Eighteen people were arrested.
Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor King Salman knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials have said such a mission — including 15 men sent from Riyadh — could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler.
Erdogan described some of the statements made by Saudi authorities as the Khashoggi case unfolded as “very funny” and said their strangeness had increased the Turkish authorities’ responsibility to act.
“These juvenile statements do not match with the seriousness of government affairs,” he said. “It is obvious that (Khashoggi) is killed. But where? Where is the body?”
Saudi prosecutor: Killing was ‘premeditated’
News of the Saudi attorney general’s planned trip to Turkey comes a day after he said that Saudi Arabia now considered Khashoggi’s killing to be “premeditated,” based on information from Turkish investigators.
The statement by General Shaikh Suood bin Abdullah Al Mo’jab, posted by the state-run Saudi news agency, represented another significant shift in the Saudi version of events surrounding the Washington Post columnist’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Riyadh initially claimed he had walked out of the consulate alive.
CIA chief Gina Haspel briefed US President Donald Trump on her findings Thursday following her trip to Turkey, where she was dispatched Monday apparently to assess information the Turks have collected on Khashoggi’s killing. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Haspel listened to audio purportedly of his interrogation and murder while she was in Turkey.
The White House confirmed the briefing had taken place but gave no further details.
Kremlin: No reason not to believe Saudis
The Saudi government has faced wide condemnation from western nations over Khashoggi’s killing and its apparent cover-up. Russia, however, has yet to criticize the kingdom.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Friday that there was no reason to doubt what Saudi Arabia’s ruling royals have said about Khashoggi’s death.
Asked if the Kremlin believes the statements, Peskov said: “That is an inappropriate question, there is an official statement from the King and Crown Prince. There is no reason basically not to believe it.”
Russia’s position has been set out by President Vladimir Putin, Peskov said. “After the statement by the royal family, about condemning this killing and on the royal family not being involved, everything else is a question for the investigation.”
Putin discussed the Khashoggi case with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Thursday, in a phone call held at the initiative of the Saudi side, the Kremlin said.
On the same day, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund announced plans to bring in Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as a new partner in its joint Russia-China Investment Fund.
CNN’s Nimet Kiraç reported from Istanbul and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN’s Emma Burrows contributed to this report.