Saudis critical of ‘offensive’ media reports about missing writer

Saudi Arabia repeated denials of accusations Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate by a 15-man hit squad.
Sunday 14/10/2018
Deepening mystery. A policeman stands in front of the Saudi Consulate’s door in Istanbul, on October 10.                                   (AFP)
Deepening mystery. A policeman stands in front of the Saudi Consulate’s door in Istanbul, on October 10. (AFP)

LONDON - Saudi officials have confirmed there would be an investigation with Turkish security authorities into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen October 2 entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Riyadh “welcomes the Turkish response to the request to form a joint team into Khashoggi’s disappearance,” Al Arabiya television reported, quoting an official Saudi source.

“We trust the ability of the joint team… to carry out its mission. Saudi Arabia is concerned about the safety of its citizens,” the source added.

Turkey’s state-funded Anadolu Agency reported October 12 that a Saudi delegation had arrived in Turkey to join the Khashoggi investigation.

Saudi Arabia, on October 13, repeated denials of accusations Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate by a 15-man hit squad.

“What has been circulating about orders to kill him are lies and baseless allegations,” Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif said in a statement released through the official Saudi Press Agency.

Khashoggi, born October 13, 1958, a Saudi media personality and former government adviser, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials insist that he disappeared after leaving the building.

Turkish reports initially claimed Khashoggi was still at the consulate. However, Qatari-financed media outlets and Islamist figures, such as Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman, accused the Saudis of killing Khashoggi. Unidentified Turkish officials made similar accusations without providing evidence.

The Saudi consulate in Istanbul denied the reports, saying the kingdom “is concerned for the safety and well-being of its citizens wherever they are and authorities are pursuing the matter in this regard to discover the whole truth.”

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a statement categorically denying that Khashoggi had been abducted or killed by Saudi authorities.

“I know that many people here in Washington and around the world are concerned about his fate but I assure you that all reports saying that Jamal Khashoggi vanished in the [Saudi] consulate in Istanbul or that the kingdom’s authorities detained or killed him are completely false and baseless,” Prince Khalid said.

“Jamal has many friends in Saudi Arabia and I am one of them. Despite differences on a number of issues, including what he called his ‘self-exile,’ we kept in touch when he was in Washington.”

Ties between Ankara and Riyadh were already at a low point over regional disagreements, including Turkey’s support for Qatar in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has affinities with the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist organisation by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s pro-government media rose in the kingdom’s defence. Many repeated Prince Khalid’s statement and criticised Qatar’s Al Jazeera for its reporting.

“It adopts offensive political agendas against Saudi Arabia to serve the interests of the Iranian regime and the Iran-backed terrorist groups and militias,” an editorial in the Okaz daily said. Mai Khaled, who writes for the publication, criticised what she described as the “international media campaign that did not verify the incident but relentlessly contributed to tarnishing the image of Saudi Arabia.”

Beside Qatari-funded media, Khaled was referencing news outlets affiliated with Turkey’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly government.

Pro-government Turkish media, quoting unidentified government sources, claimed that Khashoggi’s body had been dismembered and removed from the consulate in several body bags.

The Washington Post reported October 11 that Turkish officials told their US counterparts they had video and audio recordings that confirm Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, although it was unclear whether they allowed the Americans to see or hear the evidence.

However, Yasin Aktay, a senior adviser to Erdogan, told the Guardian, a British newspaper, that “the Saudi state is not blamed here.” Aktay told al-Araby in an interview: “We have our own problems with a deep state.”

The pro-government Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported a theory that Khashoggi was smuggled alive out of Turkey.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain threw their support behind Riyadh. “We always stand with Saudi Arabia because it is a stand with honour, glory, stability and hope,” UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said on his Twitter account.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that the “fierce campaign against Riyadh is expected, as well as the coordination between its inciting parties.”

Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa expressed his country’s support for Saudi Arabia amid accusations. “The target is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and not the search for any truth. Throw your masks away. We are with it with our souls,” Sheikh Khalid tweeted.

Jamal Khashoggi’s cousin, legal counsellor Muatassim Khashoggi, after a Khashoggi family meeting in Jeddah, said: “We trust the government and the measures it is taking. All efforts being exerted in Jamal Khashoggi’s case are being coordinated with the authorities and the embassy in Ankara.”

In an interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Muatassim Khashoggi accused certain circles of spreading false, insensitive news at the expense of the Khashoggi family.

“Everyone forgot about Jamal and his family and relatives; instead they are looking after their agendas and perceptions that are not important now,” he said. “What is important now is the safety of this missing man.”

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said: “We hear the rumours about what happened (to Khashoggi). He’s a Saudi citizen and we are very keen to know what happened to him. And we will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.”