ANKARA (Reuters) – A 15-man Saudi team that flew to Turkey before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi must have been acting on orders, Turkey’s foreign minister said, though he reiterated Ankara’s stance that the directions had not come from King Salman.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Mevlut Cavusoglu added that it was Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to tell Turkey what happened to the Khashoggi’s body, according to Anadolu news agency.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Saudi officials initially insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate, then said he died in an unplanned “rogue operation”. The kingdom’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb later said he was killed in a premeditated attack.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly demanded more information from Saudi Arabia, has also asked Saudi officials to say who in Riyadh sent a 15-strong team which is suspected of involvement in the killing.
“This 15-man team did not come to Turkey on their own, they came on orders. Without due orders and permissions, 15 people cannot come from Saudi Arabia to kill their own citizen,” Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu said Erdogan had spoken to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman twice after the killing, and that he was sure the king would not give orders to kill someone.
Turkish and Saudi officials have carried out joint inspections of the consulate and consul’s residence, but Erdogan says some Saudi officials are still trying to cover up the crime. Ankara has also demanded Riyadh cooperate in finding Khashoggi’s body, which Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said had been dismembered.
“I think it is Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to find out what happened to Khashoggi’s body and inform us about it, as the 15-man team are still in Saudi Arabia,” Cavusoglu said.
Saudi Arabia has so far detained 18 people and dismissed five senior government officials as part of an investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
Editing by Dominic Evans and Andrew Heavens