MUR­DER CLAIMS ‘BASE­LESS’

Saudi Ara­bia re­jects Turk­ish ac­cu­sa­tions

New Straits Times - - WORLD -

SAUDI Ara­bia dis­missed yes­ter­day ac­cu­sa­tions that Ja­mal Khashoggi was or­dered mur­dered by a hit squad in­side its Is­tan­bul con­sulate as “lies and base­less a l l e g at i o ns ”, a s Riyadh and Ankara spar over the miss­ing jour­nal­ist’s fate.

A Saudi del­e­ga­tion was in Turkey for talks on the case, which threat­ens not only to harm frag­ile re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries but also to do se­ri­ous dam­age to the re­formist cre­den­tials of Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and the king­dom’s ties to the West.

As the con­tro­versy in­ten­si­fied, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported Turk­ish of­fi­cials had record­ings made from in­side the build­ing that al­legedly proved their claims Khashoggi was tor­tured and killed at the con­sulate.

Big names from me­dia and busi­ness have al­ready can­celled ap­pear­ances at a ma­jor con­fer­ence in Riyadh this month and both the IMF chief and the United States trea­sury sec­re­tary made their at­ten­dance con­di­tional on the find­ings in the case.

In the first Saudi min­is­te­rial re­ac­tion to Turk­ish ac­cu­sa­tions that Khashoggi was killed, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Prince Ab­del Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef con­demned “what has been re­ported in cer­tain me­dia con­cern­ing false ac­cu­sa­tions against Saudi Ara­bia... in the case of the dis­ap­pear­ance of ci­ti­zen Khashoggi”.

“What has been re­ported on the mat­ter of or­ders to kill him is a lie and a base­less al­le­ga­tion,” the min­is­ter said in com­ments car­ried by the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

He added that the king­dom was “in com­pli­ance with in­ter­na­tional laws and con­ven­tions”.

Saudi jour­nal­ist and Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­u­tor Khashoggi van­ished on Oct 2 af­ter en­ter­ing the con­sulate to ob­tain doc­u­ments for his up­com­ing mar­riage.

The Saudi del­e­ga­tion, whose com­po­si­tion was not im­me­di­ately clear, is ex­pected to meet Turk­ish of­fi­cials in Ankara at the week­end, state me­dia said on Fri­day.

It is likely that they will take part in a joint work­ing group on the case, whose cre­ation was an­nounced on Thurs­day by Turk­ish pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ibrahim Kalin fol­low­ing a re­quest by Saudi Ara­bia.

A Saudi of­fi­cial source quoted by SPA news agency said it was “a pos­i­tive move” Turkey had agreed to the cre­ation of what it de­scribed as a “joint ac­tion team”.

The Turk­ish lead­er­ship has so far stopped short of ac­cus­ing Saudi Ara­bia, al­though pro-govern­ment me­dia have pub­lished sen­sa­tional claims, in­clud­ing that an “as­sas­si­na­tion team” was sent to Is­tan­bul to kill Khashoggi.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has chal­lenged Saudi Ara­bia to pro­vide CCTV im­ages to back up its ac­count that Khashoggi left the con­sulate safely.

Khashoggi, a Saudi na­tional liv­ing in the US since Septem­ber 2017 fear­ing ar­rest, crit­i­cised some poli­cies of Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and Riyadh’s in­ter­ven­tion in the war in Ye­men.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported the Turk­ish govern­ment has told US of­fi­cials it has au­dio and video record­ings which show how Khashoggi was “in­ter­ro­gated, tor­tured and then mur­dered” in­side the con­sulate be­fore his body was dis­mem­bered.

IMF chief Chris­tine La­garde said yes­ter­day she was “hor­ri­fied” by re­ports about the Saudi dis­si­dent’s fate, while US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin ex­pressed “con­cern”.

But both said that for now they still planned to at­tend an Oct 2325 con­fer­ence in Riyadh, dubbed “Davos in the Desert” in the Swiss re­sort.

PIC REUTERS

Hu­man rights ac­tivists and friends of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi hold­ing his pic­tures dur­ing a protest out­side the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, Turkey last week.

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