President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dined together on November 10 and discussed the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, according to White House officials.
Trump and Erdogan were both in Paris for the Armistice Day commemoration. On the same day he spoke with Trump at dinner, Erdogan announced Turkey has shared what it describes as audio recordings of Khashoggi’s murder with the governments of the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
A squabble promptly broke out between Turkey and France over the Khashoggi tapes, as chronicled by Reuters on Monday:
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had questioned remarks by Erdogan at the weekend in which he said Turkey gave tapes relating to Khashoggi’s killing to the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France and Britain.
Le Drian said he was not aware that France had any tapes. Asked if Erdogan was lying, he said: “He has a political game to play in these circumstances”.
That prompted a furious response from Ankara, which insisted it had shared evidence with Paris and said Le Drian’s comments were unacceptable.
“Our intelligence shared information with them on Oct 24, including the voice recordings,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “It is very impudent for them to accuse our president of playing political games.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if soon France chooses to deny this murder, even though Saudi Arabia already confessed,” he told reporters. “What’s behind the remarks of the French foreign minister? I wonder if they are trying to cover up the murder.”
Some of the dispute appears to revolve around whether Turkey handed over recordings that could be subjected to forensic analysis by foreign intelligence agencies, or merely allowed a few foreign officials to listen to them.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday was hailed as the first Western leader to confirm Turkey’s claims of an audio recording, but even Trudeau merely implied that Canadian intelligence agents have listened to the tape and said he himself has not done so. Britain and Germany have thus far refused to elaborate on the evidence provided to them by Turkey.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the Khashoggi case with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by telephone on Sunday. According to the State Department, Pompeo “emphasized that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same.”
The UK Guardian noted that Pompeo previously stated the Khashoggi murder “violates the norms of international law” and said the United States could impose sanctions against those responsible. The Saudis have arrested 19 people in connection with the killing. Turkish officials have claimed Crown Prince Mohammed was either complicit in the murder or ordered Khashoggi’s death himself.
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt also signaled his government’s determination to investigate the murder, announcing that he would meet with top Saudi officials as well as the king and crown prince.
“The international community remain united in horror and outrage at the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi one month ago. It is clearly unacceptable that the full circumstances behind his murder still remain unclear. We encourage the Saudi authorities to cooperate fully with the Turkish investigation into his death so that we deliver justice for his family and the watching world,” said Hunt.
A Turkish reporter told the Al Jazeera news network on Sunday that the last words spoken by Jamal Khashoggi and captured on the audio recording were, “I’m suffocating, take this bag off my head, I’m claustrophobic.” The reporter said Turkish media would soon be publishing excerpts from the recording.