Turkey gave Khashoggi tapes to European nations, says Erdogan


ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has made recordings of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Germany, France and Britain, President Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday, seeking to maintain international pressure on Riyadh after death of the Saudi journalist.

Khashoggi, a critic of the de facto Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, was assassinated last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in an attack that, according to Erdogan, was ordered to the "highest levels" of the Saudi government.

His assassination provoked worldwide outrage, but the world powers took little concrete action against Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and a supporter of Washington's plans to contain Iranian influence through the country. Middle East.

Speaking while leaving Turkey to attend the commemorations of World War I in France alongside President Donald Trump and European leaders, Erdogan said for the first time that the three states of the The European Union had heard the recordings.

"We gave the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, the United States, the Germans, the French and the British, all. They listened to all the conversations in them. They know, "said Erdogan.

CIA Director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of Khashoggi's death during his visit to Istanbul, two sources told Reuters last month. A senior Saudi official also played a recording, said a source.

Erdogan did not give details on the content of the tapes on Saturday, but two knowledgeable sources told Reuters that Turkey had several audio recordings.

These include the assassination and conversations prior to the operation, which Turkey subsequently revealed, the sources said. These had allowed Ankara to conclude early that the murder was premeditated, despite Saudi Arabia's initial refusal to know everything or to be involved.

Saudi prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb has since then announced that Khashoggi's assassination was planned in advance, although another Saudi official said that Prince Mohammed was not at the time. current of the operation.

A source close to the recordings said the officials who heard them were horrified by their content. Saud al-Qahtani, one of Prince Mohammed's chief advisers, figured prominently among them, sources said.

Last month, two separate intelligence sources told Reuters that Qahtani had given Skype orders to Khashoggi's killers at the consulate. Qahtani did not answer questions from Reuters at the time. Saudi media claimed that King Salman had fired him, along with four other officials, after the killing. There is no indication that one of the suspects has been arrested.

WHO KILLED KHASHOGGI?

Erdogan did not repeat on Saturday his accusation that the operation would have been ordered by the Saudi rulers. However, he asked Riyadh to identify the murderer, saying that he must belong to a team that arrived in Turkey a few hours before Khashoggi's disappearance.

"It is not necessary to distort this problem, they know for sure that the murderer (s) are among the 15 people. The Saudi government can reveal this by making these 15 people speak, "said Erdogan.

Erdogan also accused Mojeb – who went to Istanbul to discuss the investigation with his Turkish counterpart and inspect the Istanbul consulate – to refuse to cooperate. "The prosecutor came to Turkey to find excuses, to make things difficult," he said.

During his visit, Mojeb did not reveal any information to the Turkish authorities, said a source, but asked Khashoggi's mobile phones that the journalist had left to his fiancée before entering the consulate.

Erdogan repeated a request for information on the location of Khashoggi's body. A presidential adviser said that the body had been cut out, and Vice President Fuat Oktay requested the opening of an investigation into the information that he was reported to have dissolved in an acid.

A Turkish official said last week that Saudi Arabia sent two people to Istanbul, a chemist and a toxicologist, a week after Khashoggi's murder on 2 October to erase the evidence, calling a sign that the main perpetrators Saudis knew about the crime.

PHOTO FILE: On October 23, 2018, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his AK Party (AKP) in Ankara (Turkey). REUTERS / Tumay Berkin / Photo File

Saudi Arabia said members of the team that had been sent to Istanbul and returned shortly after the killing were arrested along with three others.

After a meeting in Paris on Saturday, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that Saudi authorities should shed light on the murder of Khashoggi, said a source from the French presidency.

They also agreed that the issue should not cause further destabilization in the Middle East and that it could create an opportunity to find a political solution to the war in Yemen, according to the official.

Report by Ezgi Erkoyun; Edited by Dominic Evans and David Stamp

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