Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke in public about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi on Wednesday, telling an investment conference in Riyadh that Khashoggi’s murder was a “heinous crime” and the perpetrators will be “put before the courts.”
The crown prince, commonly referred to by his initials “MBS,” addressed the Khashoggi case as soon as he took the stage.
“The crime was really painful to all Saudis. I believe it is painful for every human in the world. It is a heinous crime that cannot be justified,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia will go and implement all necessary rules and investigate deeply in order to achieve results. And to bring to justice those who were responsible for this heinous crime and they will be put before the courts. There’s no doubt,” he promised.
MBS said hostile forces are “trying to use this painful thing to create a kind of wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”
“I want to send them a message: They will not be able to do that as long as there is king called King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia,” he declared.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly spoke with MBS shortly before he arrived at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, the much-ballyhooed event that was supposed to help open Saudi Arabia’s economy to the outside world and reduce its dependence on oil. This year’s installment of the so-called “Davos in the Desert” conference lost many of its top attendees and much of its global media sponsorship after Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Erdogan gave a speech on Tuesday that stopped just short of accusing MBS of complicity in Khashoggi’s murder.
“Pinning such a case on a handful of security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community. From the person who gave the order, to the person who carried it out, they must all be brought to account,” the Turkish president said.
Other Turkish officials, including advisers to the president, have been much more forceful in accusing the Saudi crown prince of having “blood on his hands” in the Khashoggi killing.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday that Erdogan and MBS “discussed joint efforts to uncover all aspects of the murder,” which could be optimistically interpreted as a sign of rapprochement between the two leaders. According to Anadolu, the Saudi crown prince requested the telephone conversation with Erdogan.
MBS and his father King Salman bin Abdulaziz met with Khashoggi’s son Salah and brother Sahel at the royal palace on Tuesday to offer their condolences. Photos of the meeting showed the Khashoggis looking extremely uncomfortable. Middle Eastern social media erupted with accusations the Khashoggis were marched into the palace and forced to pose for photos with the king and crown prince. Critics noted Salah Khashoggi is not currently permitted to travel out of Saudi Arabia.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri shared the stage with Crown Prince bin Salman during his appearance at the Riyadh conference. Hariri’s incarceration and alleged abuse at Saudi hands was, until now, the worst diplomatic crisis faced by MBS after he assumed the position of crown prince.
MBS made a joke about it while onstage. Noting that Hariri planned on spending two days in Riyadh, the crown prince asked the audience not to get any “ideas he’s been kidnapped.” The audience reportedly laughed and applauded.
The crown prince also received a standing ovation for saying he is fighting a “war” to restore the glory of the Middle East.