Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Turkey for the first time since Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination as the slain journalist’s fiancé calls him a ‘murderer’
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Ankara today, for his first visit to Turkey following the slaying of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
As Saudi Arabia and Turkey press ahead with efforts to repair ties that were strained by Khashoggi’s killing, the crown prince will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last leg of a Middle East tour that also took him to Egypt and Jordan.
Erdogan said talks with Prince Mohammed, who is commonly referred to by his initials MBS, would focus on advancing Turkish-Saudi relations to a “much higher degree.”
The issue of Kashoggi’s death still threatens to strain the talks as his widow Hatice Cengiz continues to call the prince ‘a murderer.’
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) traveled to Turkey on Wednesday to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) in an effort to restore diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries after a Washington Post journalist was murdered in the Saudi Embassy in 2018
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) is in Turkey today to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) to try to mend relations between the countries after the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
‘His visit to our country doesn’t change the fact that he is responsible for a murder,’ Cengiz said in a series of tweets.
‘The political legitimacy he earns through the visits he makes to a different country every day doesn’t change the fact that he is a murderer.”
Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April, paying his first visit to the kingdom since 2017, a year before the gruesome killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
The Turkish president too has made some harsh condemnations of the Saudi leadership over the journalists death, writing in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that the plot was hatched at the highest levels of government.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) says that he believes the order to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s came from the highest level of the Saudi government
‘We must reveal the identities of the puppet master behind Khashoggi’s killing,’ Erdogan wrote.
He made a point to exclude King Salman from culpability in his piece.
As relations with Turkey frayed, Saudi Arabia launched an unofficial embargo on Turkish exports, dramatically curbing around $5 billion in bilateral trade.
The kingdom also temporarily barred wildly popular Turkish soap operas.
Efforts by the regional heavyweights to improve their ties come as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and is trying to draw investments from wealthy Gulf Arab states.
Biden previously called the crown prince a ‘pirah’ after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (above)
Turkey has also taken steps to improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.
Talks with the UAE´s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan late last year led to investment deals worth $10 billion after years of regional rivalry.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, has been trying to broaden its alliances at a time of strained relations between Riyadh and Washington.
The crown prince also seeks to put an end to the scandal over Khashoggi´s killing that damaged his reputation.
Prince Mohammed´s Middle East trip comes before U.S. President Joe Biden´s scheduled trip to the region next month.
Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia at the tail end of a July 13-16 trip that includes stops in Israel and the occupied West Bank.
The president insists that he will not meet with the crown prince, promising to handle the Saudi ‘the same way I’ve been handling it.’
‘I’m not going to meet with MBS. I’m going to an international meeting and he’s going to be part of it,’ Biden said last week.
The kingdom, however, believes there will be a meeting between the two leaders.
‘The crown prince and President Biden will hold official talks that will focus on various areas of bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address regional and global challenges,’ the country said in a statement.
The White House clarified earlier statements, saying that Biden will meet with the king and MBS will attend that meeting.
Biden has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia, promising to make the country a ‘pariah’ over the Khashoggi murder.
The oil shortage due to the embargo on Russian oil after the country’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the president to soften his stance with the petrol-rich country.
Still the White House promised that the topic of Kashoggi’s murder would be on the table.
Gas prices have climbed since Biden was elected in November 2020, before skyrocketing earlier this year after the invasion of Ukraine
Those filling up in states like California and have been particularly affected by the rising costs, with the state’s national average having surged by more than $2 in the span of a year
‘Human rights issues, human rights conversation is something that the president brings up with many leaders and plans to do so,’ she noted.
Ayham Kamel, head of the Euroasia Group´s Middle East research team, said the prince´s regional trip this week is “designed to cement Riyadh´s regional role and expand reconciliation efforts” ahead of Biden´s visit to Saudi Arabia.
He said it could also serve to mediate between Egypt and Turkey, which are working toward reconciliation after their relations broke down over Turkey´s strong opposition to the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
President Joe Biden insisted he will not be meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he’s in Saudi Arabia next month
“Bilateral trade is likely to increase, and there is a good chance that Saudi tourism flows to Turkey will resume,” Kamel wrote.
“Talks could also involve military/defense cooperation or arms procurement, as the Saudis are interested in exploring diversifying their suppliers.”
The killing of Khashoggi sparked global outrage and put pressure on Prince Mohammed, who was said to have approved the operation to kill or capture the journalist, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment.
The prince has denied any knowledge of the operation that was carried out by agents who worked directly for him.
While never naming the crown prince, Erdogan said the operation that killed Khashoggi was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
Khashoggi entered the consulate in October 2018 by appointment to obtain papers to allow him to wed his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who waited for him outside. He never emerged and his body was never found.
Cengiz said she welcomed the improvement in Saudi and Turkish relations but opposed Prince Mohammed getting welcomed to Ankara before Khashoggi’s killers were brought to justice.
“As someone who has been wronged, I find it very heartbreaking,” Cengiz told The Associated Press in a written response to questions.
“I object to this. Jamal´s body is still missing. I am devastated that this has gone unanswered and that those who killed him remain unpunished.”
Turkey opened a trial in absentia against 26 Saudis suspected in Khashoggi´s killing, but the court earlier this year ruled to halt the proceedings and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, paving the way for the countries´ rapprochement.
“An apology should have been made both to my country and to me,” Cengiz said.
She also was critical of Biden´s plans to visit Saudi Arabia.
“Forgetting all the promises he made, he is now taking steps for his own country´s interests. He is violating the values that he believes in,” Cengiz said. “With this visit, he is making the whole world question his sincerity.”
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Key moments surrounding the writer’s disappearance and death
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the kingdom’s policies and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say a 15-men team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer, while Saudi Arabia says he died in a ‘fistfight.’
Here are some key moments in the slaying of the Washington Post columnist:
BEFORE HIS DISAPPEARANCE
September 2017: The Post publishes the first column by Khashoggi in its newspaper, in which the former royal court insider and longtime journalist writes about going into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Prince Mohammed. His following columns criticize the prince and the kingdom’s direction.
September 28, 2018: Over a year after the Post published his first column, Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, seeking documents in order to get married. He’s later told to return October 2, his fiancee Hatice Cengiz says. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a plan or a ‘road map’ to kill Khashoggi was devised in Saudi Arabia during this time.
September 29: Khashoggi travels to London and speaks at a conference.
October 1: Khashoggi returns to Istanbul. At around 4.30pm, a three-person Saudi team arrives in Istanbul on a scheduled flight, checks in to their hotels then visits the consulate, according to Erdogan. The Turkish president says another group of officials from the consulate travel to a forest in Istanbul’s outskirts and to the nearby city of Yalova on a ‘reconnaissance’ trip.
Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2
THE DAY OF HIS DISAPPEARANCE
3.28am, October 2: A private jet arrives at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport carrying some members of what Turkish media will refer to as a 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad.’ Other members of the team arrive by two commercial flights in the afternoon. Erdogan says the team includes Saudi security and intelligence officials and a forensics expert. They meet at the Saudi Consulate. One of the first things they do is to dismantle a hard disk connected to the consulate’s camera system, the president says.
11.50am: Khashoggi is called to confirm his appointment at the consulate later that day, Erdogan says.
1.14pm: Surveillance footage later leaked to Turkish media shows Khashoggi walking into the main entrance of the Saudi Consulate. No footage made public ever shows him leaving. His fiancee waits outside, pacing for hours.
3.07pm: Surveillance footage shows vehicles with diplomatic license plates leaving the Saudi Consulate for the consul general’s home some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.
5.50pm: Khashoggi’s fiancee alerts authorities, saying he may have been forcibly detained inside the consulate or that something bad may have happened to him, according to Erdogan.
7pm: A private plane from Saudi Arabia carries six members of the alleged Saudi squad from Istanbul to Cairo, the next day returning to Riyadh.
11pm: Seven members of the alleged Saudi squad leave on another private jet to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which the next day returns to Riyadh. Two others leave by commercial flights.
Erdogan confirms reports that a ‘body double’ – a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and a beard – leaves the consulate building for Riyadh with another person on a scheduled flight later that day.
CCTV images showed a a private jet alleged to have been used by a group of Saudi men suspected of being involved in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death
October 3: Khashoggi’s fiancee and the Post go public with his disappearance. Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi visited the consulate and exited shortly thereafter. Turkish officials suggest Khashoggi might still be in the consulate. Prince Mohammed tells Bloomberg: ‘We have nothing to hide.’
October 4: Saudi Arabia says on its state-run news agency that the consulate is carrying out ‘follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building.’
October 5: The Post prints a blank column in its newspaper in solidarity with Khashoggi, headlined: ‘A missing voice.’
October 6: The Post, citing anonymous Turkish officials, reports Khashoggi may have been killed in the consulate in a ‘preplanned murder’ by a Saudi team.
October 7: A friend of Khashoggi tells the AP that officials told him the writer was killed at the consulate. The consulate rejects what it calls ‘baseless allegations.’
October 8: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey is summoned over Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing.
October 9: Turkey says it will search the Saudi Consulate as a picture of Khashoggi walking into the diplomatic post surfaces.
October 10: Surveillance footage is leaked of Khashoggi and the alleged Saudi squad that killed him. Khashoggi’s fiancee asks President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for help.
October 11: Turkish media describes Saudi squad as including royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert. Trump calls Khashoggi’s disappearance a ‘bad situation’ and promises to get to the bottom of it.
October 12: Trump again pledges to find out what happened to Khashoggi.
October 13: A pro-government newspaper reports that Turkish officials have an audio recording of Khashoggi’s alleged killing from his Apple Watch, but details in the report come into question.
October 14: Trump says that ‘we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment’ if Saudi Arabia is involved. The kingdom responds with a blistering attack against those who threaten it, as the manager of a Saudi-owned satellite news channel suggests the country could retaliate through its oil exports. The Saudi stock exchange plunges as much as 7 percent at one point.
Khashoggi (pictured), went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
October 15: A Turkish forensics team enters and searches the Saudi Consulate, an extraordinary development as such diplomatic posts are considered sovereign soil. Trump suggests after a call with Saudi King Salman that ‘rogue killers’ could be responsible for Khashoggi’s alleged slaying. Trump says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Mideast over the case. Meanwhile, business leaders say they won’t attend an economic summit in the kingdom that’s the brainchild of Prince Mohammed.
October 16: A high-level Turkish official tells the AP that ‘certain evidence’ was found in the Saudi Consulate proving Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo arrives for meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Salman and Prince Mohammed. Meanwhile, Trump compares the case to the appointment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, saying: ‘Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent.’
October 17: Pompeo meets with Turkey’s president and foreign minister in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Turkish police search the official residence of Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul and conduct a second sweep of the consulate.
October 18: A leaked surveillance photograph shows a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage walked into the consulate just before Khashoggi vanished there.
October 20: Saudi Arabia for the first time acknowledges Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming he was slain in a ‘fistfight.’ The claim draws immediate skepticism from the kingdom’s Western allies, particularly in the U.S. Congress.
October 22: A report says a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office around the time Khashoggi was killed. Police search a vehicle belonging to the Saudi consulate parked at an underground garage in Istanbul.
CCTV emerges showing a Saudi intelligence officer dressed in a fake beard and Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and glasses on the day he went missing.
October 23: Erdogan says Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi after plotting his death for days, demanding that Saudi Arabia reveal the identities of all involved.
October 25: Changing their story again, Saudi prosecutors say Khashoggi’s killing was a premeditated crime.
November 2: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government. Earlier the same day, Yasin Aktay, a ruling party adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he believed the body had to have been dissolved in acid.
November 4: Khashoggi’s sons Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi issue appeal for his remains to be returned so that he may be buried in Saudi Arabia.
November 10: President Erdogan says Turkey gave the audio recordings linked to the murder to ‘Saudi Arabia, to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the British’.
November 13: Turkish media reports that the luggage carried by the Saudi ‘hit squad’ included scissors, defibrillators and syringes that may have been used against Khashoggi.
November 15: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announces that he is seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder. Shalaan al-Shalaan said the person who had ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team sent to repatriate him, and exonerated Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. On the same day, the U.S. Treasury announces sanctions against 17 Saudi officials, including the Consul General in Turkey, Mohammed Alotaibi.
November 16: A CIA assessment reported in the Washington Post finds that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.
November 18: Germany bans 18 Saudi nationals believed to be connected to the murder from entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone. Berlin also announces it has as halted previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia amid the fallout.