Khashoggi’s killers did not act alone: Turkish FM

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Ankara does not believe that those who murdered Jamal Khashoggi acted alone, Turkey’s foreign minister told a German daily Nov. 26.

In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu assessed Khashoggi’s killing and relations between Turkey and the European Union.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, the Saudi administration admitted weeks later that he was killed there.

After stressing that he listened to an audio recording revealing the moments of the murder, Çavuşoğlu said: “It can be heard in the recording how the forensic expert [in the Saudi hit squad] gave instructions. He is heard saying that the others should listen to music while he is dismembering the body. It can be understood that he enjoys doing it. He likes to dismember people. This is gross.”

While underscoring that definitive evidence was required before making accusations, Çavuşoğlu said many held Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder.

Noting that bin Salman had requested an audience with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the two-day G20 summit in Argentina, which begins Nov. 30, Çavuşoğlu said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would consider such a meeting.

“At this point, there is no reason not to meet the crown prince,” he said.

Crown Prince Mohammed arrived in Egypt on Nov. 26, the third leg of his first trip abroad since the murder.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will brief the U.S. Senate on Nov. 28 on the latest developments related to Saudi Arabia, Senator John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, told reporters.

A Senate aide said the briefing will take place at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT).

Many U.S. lawmakers, including some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, have expressed concern about the killing of Khashoggi and the war in Yemen, which has created one of the world’s most urgent humanitarian disasters.

Turkey-EU relations

Asked about last week’s visit to Ankara by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, the bloc’s commissioner for enlargement negotiations and neighborhood policy, Çavuşoğlu said it had been the “best and most productive” meeting with EU representatives in several years.

Citing recent protests in France over rising fuel taxes, Çavuşoğlu said the EU regarded the French government’s reaction to demonstrators as “unacceptable”.

“However, Europeans in the past tried to school us during the Gezi incidents,” he added, referring to a nationwide wave of protests against the Turkish government in the summer of 2013.

He reiterated that Turkey continues to aim to be a full member of the bloc while noting that the EU did not hold up its side of the 2016 refugee deal with Ankara by failing to open negotiations regarding any of the five chapters for accession to which it had vowed.

Çavuşoğlu also highlighted the “fallacy” of the EU in seeking to school Turkey in judicial independence, citing the case of Can Dündar, a former editor-in-chief of a Turkish daily who was convicted of espionage charges.

Dündar was arrested in November 2015 following the publication of images purporting to show arms being transported to Syria in trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, also known as the MIT.

He was held in prison until Feb. 26, 2016, when Turkey‘s Constitutional Court ruled that his rights had been violated and ordered his release.
Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled on March 9 that Dündar should be convicted and handed down a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years on a charge of “espionage”.

In May 2016, the 14th High Criminal Court in Istanbul convicted Dündar.

ECHR ruling

On a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordering the release of a Turkish opposition leader facing terror charges, Çavuşoğlu said there are “many EU countries that do not execute ECHR decisions”.

He added that Turkey would apply to the grand chamber of the ECHR to appeal against the ruling.

PKK/YPG

Referring to a recent decision by the U.S. to place bounties on the heads of senior figures in the illegal PKK, Çavuşoğlu said that while recognizing the YPG as a direct affiliate of the PKK, Washington continued to work with the group in Syria.

“The Europeans know this as well. These are double standards,” he said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.

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