The Saudi request to cooperate with Turkey, which was announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser Thursday, was a possible sign that the Saudi leadership may be searching for an exit from the crisis as it faces growing international pressure to explain Khashoggi’s fate.
The Saudi journalist went missing Oct. 2, shortly after he entered the consulate to obtain paperwork related to his upcoming wedding. Saudi Arabia said he left the consulate on his own, but it has provided no evidence — such as video footage that would show him leaving.
Before the announcement about a joint probe, Erdogan mocked Saudi claims that the consulate’s cameras were not recording, saying that the Saudis possess “advanced” surveillance equipment that would have captured Khashoggi’s movements in and around the facility, according to a report published Thursday in Turkey’s daily Sabah newspaper.
“Is it possible not to have camera systems at the consulate or an embassy? Is it possible that camera systems didn’t exist at the Saudi Consulate, where the incident took place?” Erdogan said to reporters accompanying him on a trip to Hungary, according to Sabah.
The Saudis could “catch a bird or a mosquito with the advanced systems they have,” Erdogan added.
His comments were the latest sign of the outrage at Saudi Arabia that has been building steadily over the past nine days as graphic and disturbing details of Khashoggi’s fate have emerged.
Turkey has released no official findings into Khashoggi’s disappearance, but people familiar with the Turkish investigation have said it concludes that he was killed inside the consulate soon after he entered. Afterward, his body was dismembered to conceal the killing, they said the probe found.
Human rights groups and press freedom advocates have demanded that Saudi Arabia reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi, who had written articles criticizing the Saudi leadership over the past year. That outcry in turn has put pressure on the Trump administration and Britain, two of Saudi Arabia’s most committed Western allies, to press their Saudi counterparts for answers.
In a sign of the backlash, the New York Times said Wednesday that it was pulling its sponsorship of an investment conference scheduled for this month in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. On Thursday, a London-based activist group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, urged the Natural History Museum in London to cancel an evening reception hosted by the Saudi Embassy.
Adding to the pressure, a report published Thursday in The Washington Post said that U.S. officials have collected intelligence indicating that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, authorized an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and detain him. U.S. officials said that intelligence intercepts had captured discussions among Saudi officials about such a plan.
On Thursday, President Trump told reporters that the White House is looking “very strongly” at Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“What happened is a terrible thing, assuming that happened,” he said. “Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but somehow I tend to doubt it.”
“We intend to get to the bottom of it,” he added.
The president also reiterated his opposition to punishing Saudi Arabia by blocking arms sales, which he noted are worth $110 billion to the United States. “There are other things we can do,” he said.