Turkey blocks Saudi, UAE news websites in retaliatory move: report

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Turkish authorities blocked Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) news websites on Sunday, days after the sites of Turkey’s state broadcaster and news agency were blocked in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported.

The apparently reciprocal moves come four weeks after Turkish prosecutors indicted 20 Saudis over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul, a killing that soured relations between Ankara and Riyadh.

Internet users in Turkey trying to access the sites of Saudi news agency SPA, the UAE’s WAM news agency and more than a dozen other sites saw a message saying that they were blocked under a law governing Internet publications in Turkey.

A spokesman at Turkey’s Justice Ministry declined to comment on the actions, and Saudi Arabia’s government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Turkish website of the UK-based Independent newspaper, which is operated by a Saudi company, was one of the sites to blocked on Sunday, in a move that its editor said reflected political tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“We believe the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey reflected on us,” editor Nevzat Çiçek told Reuters. Sunday’s decision appeared to be “retaliation against Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Saudi Arabia had blocked access to several Turkish media websites a week earlier, including state broadcaster TRT and the state-owned Anadolu news agency. Residents of the UAE, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, said the Turkish websites were accessible on Sunday.

Tensions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia escalated sharply after Saudi agents killed Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul in October 2018.

Last month Istanbul prosecutors indicted one of the prince’s close aides and a former deputy head of Saudi general intelligence on charges of instigating Khashoggi’s killing, as well as 18 men it said carried out the operation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the killing was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government. Prince Mohammed has denied ordering the killing but said he bore ultimate responsibility as the kingdom’s de facto leader.

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