U.S. President Donald Trump has said the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul was “one of the worst cover-ups” in history.
“They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups,” Trump said on October 23.
Trump’s remarks came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier on October 23 that the “savage murder” of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate had been “planned” days before his death.
Trump described Erdogan’s speech as “pretty rough” on Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on October 23 that the United States has identified some Saudi officials responsible for killing Khashoggi and is taking action that includes revoking visas and possible sanctions.
“These penalties will not be the last word on the matter from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters in Washington. “We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.”
In Turkey, Erdogan demanded that Saudi Arabia provide answers about where Khashoggi’s body was, and who ordered the operation.
Erdogan also called for the suspects to be tried in Istanbul.
The 59-year-old Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman went missing on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate to get papers for his wedding.
Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a “fistfight” inside the consulate and then calling Khashoggi’s killing a “rogue operation.”
Earlier on October 23, the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the killing was something that must “never happen again,” and pledged a full investigation into the journalist’s death.
Erdogan said Saudi officials must reveal, regardless of rank, who planned the killing and called for the 18 suspects detained by Riyadh over the case to be tried in Istanbul.
He also said that attempts to blame Khashoggi’s death on intelligence operatives “will not satisfy us.”
“Intelligence and security institutions have evidence showing the murder was planned,” the Turkish president said.
“Pinning such a case on some security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community,” he added.
The Turkish leader said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before the killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission. The next day 15 people came to the consulate.
“Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?” Erdogan said.
When asked about Erdogan’s statement, British Prime Minster Theresa May’s spokesman said that it “underscores the fact there remain questions which only the Saudis have the answers to.”
Erdogan’s address coincided with the start of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia that was briefly attended by the Saudi crown prince.
The conference has been overshadowed by the Khashoggi case, with dozens of government and business leaders pulling out.
“As we know these are difficult days. We are going through a crisis,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in his speech.
Falih said Khashoggi’s killing was regrettable, adding that “nobody in the kingdom can justify it.”
On October 22, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied” with what he has heard from Saudi Arabia about Khashoggi’s killing.
But he also said that does not want the United States to lose investments from Riyadh, a close U.S. ally.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and the BBC