Pressure on Saudi over missing journalist
TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Saudi Arabia to release footage of Jamal Khashoggi and US President Donald Trump demanded answers over his fate, as the kingdom faced growing pressure yesterday to provide a convincing explanation for the journalist’s disappearance.
The Washington Post, the daily to which Khashoggi was a contributor, added to the mystery by reporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered an operation to “lure” the critical journalist back home.
Khashoggi has not been seen since October 2 when he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage. Turkish officials quoted in media have said he was killed but Riyadh denies that.
The mystery has captivated the world but also threatens to harm brittle Turkish-Saudi relations and hurt efforts by the crown prince to improve the image of his country with a reform drive.
Erdogan challenged Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its account that Khashoggi had left the consulate safely, indicating he did not find the current Saudi explanations sufficient.
“Is it possible there were no camera systems in a consulate, in an embassy? Is it possible that there was no Saudi camera system where this incident took place?” Erdogan told Turkish reporters in comments published in newspapers.
“If a bird flew, or a fly or a mosquito appeared, the systems would capture this; they (Saudi Arabia) have the most cutting-edge systems,” he was quoted as saying.
The consulate said CCTV cameras were not working that day and dismissed the murder claims as “baseless.”
The case is also threatening the strong relationship the Trump administration has built with Prince Mohammed, who wants to turn the oil-rich conservative kingdom into a hub for innovation and reform.
The two sides have worked together on challenging Iran despite concern over the prince’s campaign against dissidents, which critics say has revealed the true face of his rule.
In a reversal from Washington’s initial low-key response, Trump reaffirmed that he has to “find out what happened.”
“We can’t let it happen. And we’re being very tough and we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said.