US, UK, TURKEY STEP UP PRES­SURE OVER MISS­ING SAUDI JOUR­NAL­IST

Financial Chronicle - - AROUND THE GLOBE - AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

TURK­ISH Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan urged Saudi Ara­bia to re­lease footage of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­manded an­swers over his fate, and close ally and trade part­ner Bri­tain warned of “se­ri­ous con­se­quences” as the king­dom faced grow­ing pres­sure on Thurs­day to pro­vide a con­vinc­ing ex­pla­na­tion for his 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 ver­sion 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? 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,” Er­do­gan told Turk­ish re­porters.

The con­sulate said CCTV cam­eras were not work­ing that day and dis­missed the mur­der claims as “base­less”.

Bri­tain’s for­eign sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt on Thurs­day said, “Peo­ple who have long thought of them­selves as Saudi’s friends are say­ing this is a very, very se­ri­ous mat­ter. If these al­le­ga­tions are true, there will be se­ri­ous con­se­quences be­cause our friend­ships and our part­ner­ships are based on shared val­ues. We are ex­tremely wor­ried. Hunt said he had spo­ken to Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter Adel alJubeir and had told him “how very, very con­cerned the United King­dom is”.

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 grow­ing con­cern over the prince’s cam­paign against dis­si­dents, which crit­ics say has shown up the true face of his rule.

In a re­ver­sal from Wash­ing­ton’s ini­tial low-key re­sponse, Trump de­manded an­swers af­ter he spoke to Saudi au­thor­i­ties “at the high­est level”. “We’re de­mand­ing every­thing. We want to see what’s go­ing on there,” he said. Trump later told Fox News at Night that “it would not be a good thing at all” if Saudi in­volve­ment was proven.

Khashoggi is a former gov­ern­ment ad­viser who fled Saudi Ara­bia in Septem­ber 2017 and lived in the US fear­ing ar­rest back home. In his col­umns for the Wash­ing­ton Post and com­ments else­where, Khashoggi was crit­i­cal of some poli­cies of Mo­hammed bin Sal­man as well as Riyadh’s role in the war in Ye­men. While un­named Turk­ish of­fi­cials quoted in the me­dia have been giv­ing some­times macabre de­tails of the al­leged mur­der, Er­do­gan has so far been more cir­cum­spect. He has said Saudi Ara­bia must prove its ver­sion of events but so far has stopped short of di­rectly ac­cus­ing the king­dom or lay­ing the blame on the pow­er­ful crown prince. “It’s not pos­si­ble for us to stay silent re­gard­ing an in­ci­dent like this,” Er­do­gan said. He added that it would “not be right” to com­ment yet but said he had “con­cerns”.

Ankara and Riyadh have worked over re­cent years to main­tain cor­dial re­la­tions de­spite dis­putes on key is­sues, such as the oust­ing of the Is­lamist Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment and the block­ade on Turkey’s key re­gional ally Qatar.

Friends of Khashoggi told the Wash­ing­ton Post that for sev­eral months, se­nior Saudi of­fi­cials were of­fer­ing him pro­tec­tion, “even a high­level job work­ing for the gov­ern­ment” if the critic re­turned to the king­dom. Khashoggi was scep­ti­cal of such of­fers. Fol­low­ing the Post re­port, State Depart­ment deputy spokesman Robert Pal­ladino said the US “had no ad­vanced knowl­edge of Ja­mal Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance”.

Turk­ish po­lice are look­ing into a team of 15 Saudis who they say were at the con­sulate at the same time as Khashoggi and ar­rived in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 2 on board two pri­vate planes. Turk­ish me­dia have said the 15 were an “as­sas­si­na­tion team” and that they took the con­sulate’s footage with them. Af­ter im­ages of the men and their names were pub­lished by pro-gov­ern­ment Sabah daily, me­dia iden­ti­fied most of them as se­nior fig­ures in Riyadh or close to the crown prince.

Turk­ish po­lice are also analysing CCTV footage which showed a ve­hi­cle that went in­side the con­sulate and then to the con­sul-gen­eral’s res­i­dence nearby af­ter 1200 GMT, two hours af­ter Khashoggi had en­tered the mis­sion. Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties have been given per­mis­sion to search the con­sulate —Saudi sovereign ter­ri­tory — but it has not yet taken place.

The Wash­ing­ton Post of which Khashoggi was a con­trib­u­tor, has re­ported that Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man had or­dered an op­er­a­tion to “lure” the crit­i­cal jour­nal­ist back home

A protest out­side the Em­bassy of Saudi Ara­bi­ain Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day

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