Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday demanded that Saudi Arabia extradite suspects in the killing in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, taking to task the kingdom’s crown prince, who was basking in his quick return to the world stage at the G20, AFP reported.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s presence at the summit of the Group of 20 powers in Buenos Aires demonstrated he was firmly in control, as he met with Western leaders and sealed an oil pact with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But the Turkish leader, also attending the G20, was visibly cooler toward the 33-year-old prince and on Saturday directly criticized him for the first time over the killing of Khashoggi, a royal confidant turned critic.
Saudi Arabia has said that 21 people are in custody and vowed to keep probing the killing of Khashoggi, who was killed and dismembered after visiting the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate to handle paperwork for his planned wedding.
“It’s essential that these people are tried in Turkey in order to eliminate any question marks that the international community may have,” Erdoğan told reporters in Buenos Aires.
“Whoever ordered and facilitated this violent crime should be found out at once. Unless the perpetrators are exposed, the whole world and the Islamic community will not be satisfied.”
Erdoğan said the Saudis have refused to help Turkish prosecutors with information on the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body and the identities of accomplices said to have supported the visiting Saudi hit squad.
The Islamist-oriented Turkish leader, who has been vying for influence in the region with Saudi Arabia, said he did “not seek to cause any damage” to the royal family.
But he criticized Prince Mohammed, saying that during the summit the Saudi heir apparent gave an “unbelievable explanation” on Khashoggi’s killing.
The prince told world leaders that “unless the crime is proven, you cannot blame Saudi Arabia,” Erdoğan quoted him as saying.
“Of course, that might be valid from a legal point of view,” Erdoğan said. “But his own officials have admitted that this was a planned operation.”