Erdogan’s “Khashoggi speech” is meant to boost his Muslim credentials (and Turkish lira) خطاب أردوغان المتعلق بقضية الخاشقجي هدفه تعزيز دوره الإسلامي ودعم الليرة التركية
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan withheld the promised “naked truth” about the Saudi role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on Oct. 2 in his speech to parliament on Tuesday, Oct.23. He failed to produce any of the audio or video evidence of the crime, which Turkish authorities claimed to possess during weeks of disseminating sensational leaks to the world media. His references to Saudi King Salman were deferential: “His denial of prior knowledge of the crime is sincere.” And he made no mention at all of the beleaguered Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Turkish president noted that the 18 people arrested in Riyadh were those named by Turkey as the assassins, saying they should be tried in Istanbul. He also referred to a team of three people, without identifying them, who he said, arrived in Riyadh the day before Khashoggi’s disappearance and scouted a forest near Istanbul. This suggested that the Saudis had prepared a hiding place for the murdered journalist’s remains and therefore knew where the body was. Erdogan called for an independent inquiry into the affair, asserting: “This was a political killing!”
DEBKAfile’s analysts make certain inferences from the mildness of the Turkish president’s accusations. One is that he and the Saudi royal house have come to a deal to defuse the affair, to which President Donald Trump is a party. Alternatively, Erdogan himself was short of smoking-gun evidence to support those accusation. It is also possible that he has learned from his own record of making political opponents disappear, whether from the Turkish army, police or intelligence service, that holding back information increases his bargaining power. He has already milked international outrage over the assassination of the Saudi journalist for great personal benefits and can afford to allow it to die down.
In all 15 years at the helm of Turkish government (11 as prime minister and four as president), he has never felt stronger or closer to his imperial ambitions. In the weeks after the Khashoggi episode erupted, he bounced his fortunes from rock bottom to the pinnacle of world affairs. Before, he was grappling with a sinking currency, a bitter hate contest with fellow Muslim rulers, excepting only Qatar, over his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, one foot out of NATO, and nearly half a million Turks deprived of their livelihood by his massive purges after the 2016 that nearly toppled him.
After the Khashoggi affair broke, Erdogan is sought after by world leaders, whether in Washington or hostile Riyadh, and entertains high hopes of achieving goals that were once out of his reach:
Stabilizing the Turkish lira with US and Saudi financial assistance. Riyadh may fork out generous sums for removing the Khashoggi affair from international headlines and agenda.
From being treated like a pariah by mainstream Muslim nations like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Erdogan’s Turkey may win acceptance as an ally.
His standing in the Muslim world will be much enhanced, one of his most coveted ambitions.
This enhancement will pave the way for his appointment as mediator in the Saudi-UAE feud with Qatar.
Erdogan gains more say in determining Syria’s post-war future.
His clout is seriously strengthened in dealings with Moscow and Tehran.
He has opened the door to alliances with parties which are hostile to Israel, so gaining clout over the Jewish state.
Jamal Khashoggi: Erdoğan rejects Saudi account of killing
Bethan McKernan in Istanbul/The Guardian/October 23/18
Turkish president calls for ‘highest ranked’ of those responsible to face justice
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has publicly torn down Saudi claims that the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight in its Istanbul consulate, making fresh allegations that his “savage” murder was premeditated and calling for an independent investigation in Turkey.
Erdoğan had billed his hotly anticipated address at the Turkish parliament in Ankara as the moment he would reveal the “naked truth” about what happened to Khashoggi. He said he was not satisfied with Riyadh’s suggestion that the killing was a rogue extradition operation gone wrong, and called for the “highest ranked” of those responsible to be brought to justice.
“Intelligence and security institutions have evidence showing the murder was planned … Pinning such a case on some security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community,” he said. “From the person who gave the order, to the person who carried it out, they must all be brought to account.”
Contrary to expectations Erdoğan’s first update on the three-week-old case did not officially reveal the existence of audio and video evidence understood to be in Turkey’s possession.
Erdogan did reveal that on the day before Khashoggi was killed, Saudi agents arrived in Istanbul and began to scout locations, including the Belgrad Forest nearo Ankara and the city of Yalova to its south. Police have subsequently searched both areas for evidence of Khashoggi’s remains.
The president did not name the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who it is alleged was probably aware of and possibly even ordered the silencing of his prominent critic, but observers were in little doubt to who his repeated mentions of “highest ranked” referred.
The gaps in the speech also suggest Erdoğan has more cards to play in the evolving diplomatic crisis. Erdoğan’s speech came as the Saudi foreign ministry released extraordinary photos of Khashoggi’s son, Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, meeting the crown prince and King Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi shakes hands with Prince Mohammed on Tuesday. Photograph: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s widely derided version of events has created a scandal for the kingdom. Western allies have expressed scepticism, pulling out of a large foreign investment conference in Riyadh that began on Tuesday and triggering calls from the US Congress to reevaluate the close political friendship between the Trump administration and the crown prince.
Tabling new allegations that Saudi officials scoped out rural areas outside Istanbul the day before Khashoggi’s murder, Erdoğan said Turkey’s investigation was ongoing.
“Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder,” Erdoğan said. “As of now we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible – from the highest ranked to the lowest – and to bring them to justice.”
Erdoğan spoke of the “sincerity” of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in the investigation so far but made no mention of his son, the crown prince.
Saudi Arabia must relinquish control of the investigation into the “political” murder to an independent and unbiased Turkish operation in Istanbul, Erdoğan said.
The president strongly criticised Saudi Arabia’s “inconsistent statements” in the case and demanded the kingdom identify the “local collaborator” who allegedly disposed of Khashoggi’s body.
Riyadh says Khashoggi was accidentally choked during a rendition attempt that went wrong, and his body was rolled up in a rug and given to a third party.
Turkish investigators, however, have steadily leaked evidence to the media that allegedly proves the journalist was tortured, murdered and his body dismembered within the consulate building. CCTV footage shows a body double dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes leaving the consulate and touring Istanbul’s landmarks, undermining the idea that the team interrogating Khashoggi meant to bring him back alive.
As reported by the Observer on Sunday, Turkish investigators may have intercepted the hit squad’s communications. Reuters said on Monday that Saud al-Qahtani, an influential adviser to Bin Salman, participated in a Skype call to the room in the consulate where Khashoggi was held, telling the team to “bring me the head of the dog”.
Khashoggi case has put Saudi prince right where Erdoğan wants him
Qahtani and several other senior officials have been fired from their government positions. Erdoğan said that of the 18 men arrested by Saudi Arabia in the investigation, 15 were those already identified by Turkish police as members of the hit squad who flew in and out of Istanbul on the same day Khashoggi was killed. The suspects should be extradited immediately to assist with the Turkish investigation, he said.
Other parties, such as Khashoggi’s family, have requested a United Nations inquiry, fearing the case will otherwise be subject to geopolitical machinations.
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