ANKARA: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina next week amid tensions over the murder of kingdom critic Jamal Khashoggi.
Such a meeting would be the first face-to-face encounter between Erdogan and the crown prince since the killing that has tainted the image of both the kingdom and its de facto ruler.
“There could be” a meeting, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. “We’re looking at the programme,” Kalin said, according to state news agency Anadolu.
The former court insider and Washington Post contributor was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, before he was killed and dismembered, according to Turkish prosecutors.
He had visited the mission for paperwork necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee.
After denying Khashoggi was killed inside the building, Riyadh accepted responsibility and said 21 people were in custody.
Saudi authorities are seeking the death penalty against five men but attention remains focused on whether the crown prince ordered the murder despite Saudi denials.
The European Union on Thursday called for those “really responsible” to be held to account.
Calling for a “completely transparent and credible investigation”, the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said: “For us accountability does not mean revenge.”
Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government but has stopped short of directly blaming Prince Mohammed.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Wednesday said criticism of the crown prince is a “red line”, and that calls for him to be held accountable for the murder would not be tolerated.
Prince ‘not involved’
Erdogan and the crown prince spoke for the first time on the phone on October 24 about the case, discussing the joint efforts needed to shed light on the murder.
The Saudi prosecutor last week absolved the crown prince of blame for the murder of Khashoggi, a US resident since 2017 who had written critical articles and once compared Prince Mohammed to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Saudi foreign minister meanwhile said Riyadh would “not tolerate any discussion of anything that is disparaging towards our monarch or our crown prince.
“We have made it clear that the crown prince is not involved.”
President Donald Trump admitted Prince Salman may have been behind the murder but said the United States would not slacken its support for the kingdom.
“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event –- maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement.
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner.”
However, a CIA analysis leaked to the US media went further, reportedly pointing the finger at the crown prince, based on its examination of multiple intelligence sources among them a phone call between the prince’s brother — the Saudi ambassador to the United States — and Khashoggi.
Denmark suspends arms sales
A spokesman for the Saudi public prosecutor last week said Khashoggi was drugged and his body dismembered, but Turkish officials say he was strangled. The whereabouts of the body remain unknown.
The Saudi prosecutor sought the death penalty for the five “charged with ordering and committing the crime and for the appropriate sentences for the other indicted individuals.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticised Saudi officials over their lack of cooperation.
“There has been no statement, no information given by the Saudi Arabian side despite the Istanbul prosecutor (Irfan) Fidan giving all the information and evidence to his Saudi counterpart”.
Denmark on Thursday suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the murder, the second country to do so after Germany.