Donald Trump turning a ‘blind eye’ to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi murder, says Turkey

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” US president Donald Trump said, implying Prince Mohammed’s culpability in Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi mission in Istanbul. Trump was widely pilloried for what critics called his mercantile priorities that made him appear more like a lobbyist for Riyadh.

world Updated: Nov 23, 2018 16:50 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Donald Trump,Khashoggi,Jamal Khashoggi
Turkey on Friday said US president Donald Trump intended to turn a “blind eye” to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder after he said it would not affect Washington’s ties with Riyadh.(Reuters Photo)

Turkey on Friday said US president Donald Trump intended to turn a “blind eye” to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder after he said it would not affect Washington’s ties with Riyadh.

Trump’s backing of Saudi Arabia, his key ally against Iran, comes despite global outrage over the grisly October 2 killing that has tarnished the image of both the kingdom and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“In one sense, Trump is saying ‘I will turn a blind eye’ no matter what happens,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with CNN Turk broadcaster.

“This is not the right approach. Money doesn’t mean everything,” Cavusoglu said, referring to Trump’s continued support for Saudi Arabia, which has committed billions of dollars in US weapons contracts.

Trump on Tuesday glossed over the Central Intelligence Agency’s reported conclusion that the crown prince had authorised the killing.

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said, implying Prince Mohammed’s culpability in Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi mission in Istanbul.

Trump was widely pilloried for what critics called his mercantile priorities that made him appear more like a lobbyist for Riyadh.

A former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the crown prince, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in what Riyadh -- after weeks of denial -- said was a “rogue” operation.

The 59-year-old had gone there for documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Saudi Arabia has held 21 people in custody over the murder but shielded the powerful crown prince.

Washington earlier this month placed sanctions on 17 Saudis, which also targeted the two top aides to the crown prince by freezing assets under US jurisdiction and forbidding US companies from doing business with them.

The killing and Riyadh’s explanations have angered its Western partners.

Germany on Monday said Berlin would bar 18 Saudis from entering its territory and Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone over their alleged links to the murder.

In October, Germany called for EU countries to follow its lead and suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, prompting a dismissive response from France, the kingdom’s second-biggest customer after India.

But Denmark on Thursday followed suit, freezing all sales of weapons and military equipment to Riyadh.

Cavusoglu said “artificial measures” would not help solve the crisis.

“They (Europe) say they don’t want to upset ties with Saudi Arabia. We do not want to upset our relations either,” he said, but added Ankara would do anything to shed light on the murder.

‘No obstacle’

Turkey insists the murder was premeditated, sharing evidence with Riyadh as well as with the US and Western allies but stops short of pointing the finger of blame at the prince.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order came from “the highest levels” but not from King Salman.

Ankara has not ruled out the possibility of a meeting between Erdogan and Prince Mohammed on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina next week.

“We don’t see any obstacle to a meeting with the crown prince,” Cavusoglu said. “If there is a request, there could be a meeting but our president will decide.”

The two men spoke on the phone in late October but that would be the first face-to-face encounter since the murder.

Prince Salman on Thursday embarked on a regional tour starting with Riyadh’s close ally United Arab Emirates, his first official trip since the killing.

The prince is also set to travel to the Tunisian capital on Tuesday.

Turkish pro-government media, which has often provided gruesome details of what happened to Khashoggi in a series of leaks maintaining pressure against Riyadh, speculated further on what happened to Khashoggi’s body.

Sabah newspaper reported Khashoggi was first strangled using a bag over his head before Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, a lieutenant-colonel in the Saudi forensic department, drained his blood in the bathtub before dismembering him.

First Published: Nov 23, 2018 16:50 IST