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Turkey's Erdogan says Saudi officials planned to murder Jamal Khashoggi days before his death

Turkey's Erdogan says Saudi officials planned to murder Jamal Khashoggi days before his death Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today revealed new details in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as he broke his three-week-long silence on the case. In an address to his party in parliament, Mr Erdogan said saying the murder of the Washington Post columnist was "planned" days in advance and several members of the so-called hit squad arrived in Istanbul ahead of Khashoggi’s disappearance to scope out a forest.  In his first major speech since the journalist disappeared, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would not accept Saudi Arabia’s explanation that the killing was a rogue operation carried out by intelligence officials and implied he believed it was ordered by senior leaders.   The president said there were many questions that are still unanswered by Saudi Arabia, “Including, why have there been so many inconsistent statements made? Why is it that the body is nowhere to be found?” Mr Erdogan has said he will "go into detail" about a case that has shocked the world and raised suspicions that a Saudi hit squad planned Khashoggi's killing after he walked into the consulate on Oct. 2, and then attempted to cover it up. He did not say who was behind the killing as some speculated he might. Neither did he reference any of the tapes Turkish officials are believed to have of Khashoggi’s torture and killing. Top Turkish officials have said Turkey would clarify exactly what happened to Khashoggi and a stream of leaks to national and international media has increased pressure on Saudi Arabia, which is hosting a investment conference this week that many dignitaries have decided to skip because of the scandal. After initially denying any knowledge of Khashoggi's fate, the kingdom gave a new story on Saturday, saying he died in a "fistfight." Gina Haspel, CIA chief, flew to Turkey last night, in a sign of panic from the Trump administration that ally Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be implicated. The timing of the controversy could not be worse for the crown prince as he prepares to host a key investment summit on Tuesday, overshadowed by big name cancellations. The Future Investment Initiative kicks off today and was intended to draw leading investors who could help underwrite heir-apparent Prince Mohammed's ambitious plans to revamp the economy. But the summit, nicknamed "Davos in the desert", has been overshadowed by growing global outrage over the murder of Khashoggi inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. The chief executive of German industrial conglomerate Siemens Joe Kaeser was the latest among dozens of global executives to withdraw from the summit, hosted by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund. Ministers from the United States, Britain and France, which have huge defence deals at stake with Saudi Arabia, have already pulled out of the summit. Corporate heads from JP Morgan to carmaker Ford and ride-hailing app Uber, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg, CNN and the Financial Times have all abandoned plans to attend. Organisers have taken down a list of speakers from its website and on Monday refused to confirm the number of attendees. And in a fresh setback, the forum's website went down on Monday after an apparent cyberattack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Meanwhile, Turkish sources have kept up a steady stream of leaks from their investigation into how the journalist died casting further doubt on the Saudi version of events - that Khashoggi died after an argument spiralled into a brawl. Donald Trump said he was "not satisfied" with Riyadh's explanation of the death and world leaders are demanding answers. On Monday, CNN broadcast images showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist's clothes, exiting the consulate. Jamal Khashoggi death | The unanswered questions Omer Celik, spokesman of Mr Erdogan's ruling party, said the killing "was planned in an extremely savage manner," and that "there has been a lot of effort to whitewash this". An Erdogan adviser, Yasin Aktay, wrote in the Yeni Safak daily that Riyadh's version of events "feels like our intelligence is being mocked". The security official heading a team of 15 Saudis allegedly sent to Istanbul, called the head of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's office, Bader al-Asaker, "four times after the murder", the adviser added. Abdulkadir Selvi, whose Hurriyet newspaper columns are closely watched for indications of Mr Erdogan's thinking, wrote that Khashoggi was slowly strangled to death before a Saudi forensic specialist cut his body into 15 pieces while listening to music. "We cannot close this file until the crown prince is brought to account and removed from his post," said Selvi. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a smooth former envoy to Washington, appeared on Fox News Sunday to blame a "rogue operation" by individuals who "exceeded their responsibilities" and then "tried to cover up for it". On Tuesday he said the killing of a critic like Khashoggi is something that must "never happen again". Saudi Arabia's leadership will "see to it that the investigation is thorough and complete and that the truth is revealed and those responsible will be held to account", he told reporters. "And that mechanism and procedures are put in place to ensure that something like this can never happen again." What we know The saga surrounding the fate of Saudi Arabia’s best-known journalist has played out in claims and counterclaims published in the world’s media, as both Turkey and Riyadh struggle to control the narrative.  Since news of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance broke, journalists have had to rely on carefully controlled releases of information from Turkey - a country which has in recent years muzzled its relative free press - and Saudi Arabia, which never enjoyed one to begin with. The singular fact that both countries can agree on is that Mr Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at 1.14pm on October 2, leaving his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz waiting outside. Turkey gave Saudi Arabia a day to come up with an explanation, but Riyadh was not forthcoming. The kingdom offered the explanation that the journalist met with officials at the consulate and left shortly after, saying they noted nothing out of the ordinary. Ms Cengiz, who stood by the exit for more than four hours before raising the alarm, said that was impossible. Saudi’s response appeared not to be satisfactory for Turkey either, which was under mounting pressure to investigate an alleged state-ordered assassination on its soil. A series of leaks followed, including CCTV footage of Khashoggi entering the consulate, but not leaving.  Turkish officials alluded to a tape they had which they said revealed that the journalist was tortured and then killed. His body chopped into pieces and taken out of the embassy.  It implicated members of MBS's inner circle.  The kingdom was forced to respond, saying their own investigation found there was a "fistfight" between Khashoggi and some of the Saudi officials who entered the embassy. They were not there at the order of the crown prince and were to be fired and investigated.  Turkish officials have continued to leak damaging information in the hope of forcing Saudi to come clean. International reaction and diplomatic fallout There is a lot at risk here, with the incident threatening Turkey-Saudi relations, US-Turkey relations and perhaps most importantly Saudi-US relations. Ankara has under Erdogan jockeyed for influence in the region over Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia. The two have an alliance of convenience in conflicts in Syria and Yemen but partnership has always been uneasy. President Erdogan has until now been careful to distance himself from the reports, instead preferring to leak damning details to the press through confidantes. The US, a close and strategic ally of the bin Salman family, initially stayed silent as they weighed their response. Mr Trump appeared to open the door for Saudi rulers to distance themselves from the scandal but appearing to place the blame on “rogue assassinations”. Neither country is looking for a high-level diplomatic confrontation and both have strong incentives to agree a version of events that absolves Crown Prince Mohammed. A US-Saudi rift would likely send shockwaves around the world, destabilising oil markets and the global investment climate, not to mention dealing a blow to the Trump administration's own plans in the Middle East. Last week the president despatched Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, to Riyadh to smooth things over. But Mr Trump’s softly-softly approach has not be well-received at home.      


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