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Khashoggi leaks suggest Turkey gave Saudi way out, but kingdom didn’t care

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mbs khashoggi erdogan
A
composite image of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi
critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hamad I
Mohammed/Reuters; Middle East Monitor via Reuters; Matt Dunham –
WPA Pool/Getty Images


  • Turkish authorities have been leaking more and more
    information about the disappearance of Saudi critic and
    journalist Jamal
    Khashoggi
    .
  • The government’s official line has changed multiple
    times in the last few days.
  • Experts suggest that this happened: Turkey tried to
    coordinate its response to the case with Saudi Arabia, but the
    kingdom didn’t respond, so Turkey started leaking.

Turkey’s response to the international crisis over Jamal
Khashoggi, the Saudi critic and journalist who vanished after
entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul last week, has been
confusing at best.

Officials in Ankara have gone from accusing Riyadh of
premeditated murder, to saying that the country’s leadership was
not at fault. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has also, in
the space of a week, gone from saying that he hoped Khashoggi was
still alive to saying: “It is not possible for us to remain
silent.”

Anonymous Turkish authorities have also been leaking details of
their investigation in dribs and drabs, which are casting
increasing doubt on Saudi’s insistence of innocence.

The leaks appear to be taking place because Turkey tried to
coordinate efforts with Saudi Arabia to give it a way out of the
crisis, but the kingdom just hasn’t cared enough to respond.


Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi
Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in February
2018.

Reuters

Turkish leaks and changing stories

On Tuesday, Turkey’s pro-government newspaper, the Daily Sabah,

published
the identities and movements of 15 suspects who
traveled from Saudi Arabia who arrived at Istanbul on October 2 —
the day Khashoggi went missing — and returned to Riyadh that
night. Sabah did not say how it got hold of the names and
whereabouts.

An unnamed Turkish security source also
told
the Middle East Eye, a London-based news website
with a sometimes anti-Saudi bias, that the Saudi consulate
asked its 28 locally hired employees to take the day off on
October 2.

Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper also reported this week that
surveillance-camera footage of consulate in Istanbul has
mysteriously disappeared.


jamal khashoggi enter saudi embassy
Surveillance
footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show
Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on
October 2.

CCTV/Hurriyet via
AP


The government’s official line has also been changing.

Over the weekend, country officials told reporters that 15 Saudi
agents carried out a “preplanned
murder
” and snuck Khashoggi’s body out of the consulate.

Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
and friend of Khashoggi, said according to Reuters: “My sense is
that he has been killed… in the consulate.”

He then appeared to climb down on his statement, telling the
Saudi-owned al-Araby TV channel that “the Saudi state is not
blamed here,” suggesting instead that Khashoggi’s disappearance
was the doing of “a deep state.” Those comments were cited by

The Guardian
.

Erdogan on Monday said he was “hopeful
that Khashoggi was still alive, but had a much harder line on
Thursday,
telling Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper
: “It is not possible for
us to remain silent regarding such an occurrence, because it is
not a common occurrence.”


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the sixth Congress of the ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara, Turkey, August 18, 2018.
Erdogan,
pictured in August 2018, said on Thursday: “It is not possible
for us to remain silent” over Khashoggi’s
disappearance.


REUTERS/Umit
Bektas



What this means

Ankara is releasing more and more information about the case and
casting increasing doubt on Saudi’s insistence of innocence in
Khashoggi’s disappearance. 

Saudi officials maintain that Khashoggi left the consulate the
same day he visited, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying
last week: “We have nothing to hide.” Khashoggi’s fiancée,
Hatice Cengiz, said she waited for Khashoggi outside the
consulate for 11 hours and never saw him reappear.

Dr Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow with Chatham House’s
Middle East and North Africa program, told Business Insider: “It
seems as though as the Turkish authorities are leaking and drip
feeding evidence, which clearly contradicts the Saudi line.”

“When you piece together the threads of information that Turkish
authorities have leaked and released there is a story beginning
to emerge,” he added.

“The staccato nature of the Turkish response suggests that they
were prepared to offer the Saudis a way out of the crisis – at
least provide them with an off ramp, but given the Saudi response
or lack of it, the authorities continue to share more and more
details.”


Jamal Khashoggi
Protesters
hold photos of Khashoggi outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,
where the journalist went before going missing, on
Monday.

Chris McGrath/Getty
Images


Dr HA Hellyer, senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council
and the Royal United Services Institute in London, also said that
the leaks were “clear evidence” that Ankara was trying to release
information on a scale that would please Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh
hasn’t been responding.

Hellyer told Business Insider:

“Ankara seems to be releasing information on the basis of
expectations vis-à-vis Riyadh — and the leaks are clear evidence
of that.

“What expectations those, on the other hand, remain unclear — but
different reports indicate there are essentially negotiations
underway between Ankara and Riyadh about how to move forward.

“But this depends on whether or not Riyadh is really all that
concerned about what Ankara does – I’m not sure Riyadh
necessarily is.”

Whatever happened to Khashoggi, one thing seems certain:
His disappearance is a stark reminder of the kingdom’s brutal
crackdown on dissent.

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