Riyadh, Oct 24 (AP/UNB) — The Saudi crown prince is to make his first international speech since the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Mohammed bin Salman is to address the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh on Wednesday afternoon.
The summit is the prince's brainchild, an effort to draw much-needed foreign direct investment into the kingdom to create jobs for its young population.
However, this year's summit has been overshadowed by the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi. Turkish officials say the writer was killed by a 15-man Saudi hit squad that included a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage on overseas trips.
Saudi Arabia has suggested, without offering evidence, that the team went rogue.
Many international business leaders have pulled out of attending the summit over Khashoggi's slaying.
Istanbul, Oct 24 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia must identify those who ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and turn over the suspects for trial, the Turkish president said Tuesday in remarks that carefully ratcheted up pressure on a country that is a source of investment for Turkey, but also a rival for influence in the Middle East.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a sharp rebuttal of Saudi Arabia's widely criticized account that the writer for The Washington Post died accidentally in a brawl, saying Saudi officials had planned the killing for days.
Some analysts believe Turkey is also calculating whether it can capitalize on outrage over the killing to extract political capital from the world's largest oil exporter without alienating it altogether.
Addressing ruling party lawmakers in parliament, Erdogan used the word "murder" 15 times to describe Khashoggi's death after the writer entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 for paperwork related to his marriage plans.
Erdogan also cast Turkey in the role of global statesman, echoing calls for full Saudi accountability from Western allies whose relationships with the Turkish government have often been edgy in the past.
"To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community," he said. Earlier, Turkey's foreign minister said it would cooperate with any international or U.N. probe into the killing, a nod to transparency that only seemed to accentuate an emerging pariah status for Saudi Arabia.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stood by his earlier call for an independent and transparent investigation, said Farhan Haq, a deputy spokesman for the world body. Haq reiterated that Guterres can initiate a probe if key parties request it or if there is a legislative mandate from a U.N. body.
"Turkey is playing the long game. And today's speech is part of a very careful — in my opinion — escalation strategy," said Ahmet Kasim Han, an international relations analyst at Altinbas University in Istanbul.
"Turkish authorities seem to be concentrated on turning this into a multilateral issue" because they don't want "to be left alone with Saudi Arabia on all of this," he said.
Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, speculated that Saudi Arabia could now be vulnerable to pressure, including from the U.S., to end a boycott of Turkey-backed Qatar.
"As far as Erdogan is concerned, he will use this incident to try and get as much mileage and concessions out of it, to the advantage of Turkey, as he possibly can," Yahya said.
Erdogan focused on the investigation in his speech, saying he wants the 18 suspects detained by Saudi Arabia in the killing to face trial in Turkish courts, a demand the kingdom will probably resist. Saudi Arabia has said it will punish those involved and has described the suspects as rogue operators, even though officials linked to Saudi Arabia's assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been implicated.
Although he didn't mention Prince Mohammed, Erdogan likely knows that the kingdom's major decisions always require the approval of those at the top of the ruling Al Saud family.
"As of now, we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible — from the highest ranked to the lowest — and to bring them to justice," the Turkish president said.
Han, the Istanbul analyst, said Erdogan is moving cautiously, wary that Prince Mohammed might stay in control despite the scandal or could succumb to pressure over the Khashoggi killing and relinquish power. The latter outcome would benefit Turkey because the crown prince "is consciously and continuously pursuing strategies that work against Turkey," Han said.
Modern tensions between the two countries date to the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. Turkey supported some political Islamists who rose to power, but Saudi Arabia and its ally, the United Arab Emirates, viewed the pan-Arab Sunni movement as a threat to their hereditarily ruled nations.
Another opportunity emerging from the fallout over Khashoggi's death could be an improvement in ties with the U.S. after Washington imposed sanctions on Ankara over the jailing of a U.S. pastor, said Marc Pierini, a former European Union diplomat to Turkey.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump said Khashoggi's killing was one of the "worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups," and that the entire operation was badly conceived and "carried out poorly."
Shortly after Trump's remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. was revoking the visas of some Saudi officials implicated in Khashoggi's death. The revocations are the Trump administration's first punitive measures against the Saudis, who are seen as a key allies in U.S. efforts to isolate Iran, since Khashoggi disappeared.
At an event hosted by The Washington Post, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence declined to say whether he had seen any intelligence linking the crown prince to the killing, though he noted CIA Director Gina Haspel was in Turkey, and added: "I know that when the CIA director returns, she will be briefing the president, myself and our entire team on what the Turks have assembled."
The foreign ministers of the G7 group of nations said Saudi Arabia should conduct a credible investigation, "in full collaboration with the Turkish authorities."
Confirming reports and leaks from anonymous officials in past days, Erdogan said 15 Saudi officials arrived in Istanbul shortly before Khashoggi's death and that a man, apparently dressed in the writer's clothes, acted as a possible decoy by walking out of the consulate on the day of the disappearance.
"Why did these 15 people all with links to the event gather in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers. Who did these people get their orders from to go there? We are seeking answers," Erdogan said. "When the murder is so clear, why were so many inconsistent statements made? Why is the body of a person who has officially been accepted as killed still not around?"
Turkish investigators, meanwhile, inspected a car belonging to the consulate and found three suitcases, a laptop computer and clothes inside, state television TRT reported. Authorities discovered the car at an underground garage on Monday.
In Riyadh on Tuesday, King Salman and Prince Mohammed received Khashoggi's son, Salah, and his brother, Sahel, at the Yamama Palace, where the royals expressed their condolences. A friend of the Khashoggi family told The Associated Press that Salah has been under a travel ban since last year. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.
At a Cabinet meeting, King Salman again stressed those responsible for Khashoggi's slaying would be held "accountable," according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
Also Tuesday, the crown prince attended an investment forum alongside King Abdullah II of Jordan. Prince Mohammed sat in on an afternoon session and looked at some promotional booths outside the main hall as an excited crowd of mostly young Saudi men recorded the encounter on their phones.
Many Western executives and officials skipped the conference because of the killing.
At its opening, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih described Khashoggi's slaying as "abhorrent."
"As we all know, these are difficult days for us in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said. "Nobody in the kingdom can justify it or explain it. From the leadership on down, we're very upset of what has happened."
Tsofar, Oct 23 (AP/UNB) — Israeli farmers on Monday voiced concern over Jordan's intention not to renew parts of its landmark peace treaty with Israel that leased out two small border areas for agriculture, as Jordanians on the other side of the border welcomed the decision.
Jordan's King Abdullah II announced Sunday that he plans to pull out of annexes from the 1994 peace agreement that allowed Israel to lease Ghamr and the northern enclave of Baqura for 25 years. The leases expire next year.
His decision reflects what have become cool relations between the kingdom and Israel. Last week saw a large protest against renewing the agriculture lease.
Eran Baron, an Israeli farmer in the border village of Tsofar, said that farmers like him have invested lots of resources in Ghamr, along the southern border near Aqaba.
He said he has not yet heard of any formal change in the current arrangement, but if denied access to his crops, he said "we will not be able to survive here."
The two parcels of land are just a few square kilometers (square miles) that have been used by Israelis for decades. But they hold symbolic meaning for Jordan.
While Jordan remains committed to its peace agreement, Israel's second with an Arab country, relations are limited largely to behind-the-scenes security ties and some environmental cooperation.
In the Jordanian capital, Amman, resident Jehad Mahmoud Abu Gosh praised the king's decision.
"Maybe Israel will not like it but this decision is very good. These are Jordanian lands and they are back to us. So it gives us hope and now we have something for us," he said.
Jordan has grown critical of Israel due to a standstill in peace efforts with the Palestinians and differences over Jerusalem, where Jordan serves as custodian of Islamic shrines.
Relations deteriorated last year after an Israeli guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman shot and killed two Jordanians, saying one, a teenager, had tried to attack him with a screwdriver and that a second person was hit in the crossfire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu infuriated the Jordanians by arranging a hero's welcome for the guard. Diplomatic relations were repaired only gradually.
Netanyahu has said he will try to renegotiate the lease arrangements.
United Nations, Oct 23 (AP/UNB) — The U.N. humanitarian chief says the conflict in Yemen has left 8.4 million people dependent on emergency food assistance and 75 percent of its 22 million people requiring some form of aid.
Mark Lowcock warns in an analysis obtained Monday night by The Associated Press that humanitarian officials "estimate that 3.5 million to 4 million more people could become severely food insecure in the months ahead."
The analysis, which is to be the subject of a briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday, says 3 million Yemenis are malnourished, including 1.1 million pregnant women "and more than 400,000 severely acutely malnourished children."
In a worst case scenario, Lowcock warns that if current trends continue, food needs could increase "by as much as 62 percent."
The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi Shiite rebels, which toppled the internationally recognized government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has killed over 10,000 people and sparked a cholera epidemic and humanitarian crisis.
At the beginning of 2017, the U.N. and its partners were able to provide aid to 3 million hungry Yemenis. But since then, they have scaled up assistance, reaching 8 million people last month because of generous funding from donors, Lowcock said. But increased funding is needed now to meet the "projected increases in needs."
He also urged combatants to allow easier access for aid operations and an expansion of commercial imports.
Lowcock warned the council on Sept. 21 that the fight against famine was being lost and said the situation had deteriorated "in an alarming way" in previous weeks.
"We may now be approaching a tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life as a result of widespread famine across the country," he said. "We are already seeing pockets of famine-like conditions, including cases where people are eating leaves."
Lowcock's new analysis was sent to the council to comply with a Security Council resolution adopted in May asking for swift reporting on "the risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity."
He said a major conflict-related factor affecting the availability of food is the loss of household income, citing World Bank estimates that Yemen's economy has contracted 50 percent since the start of conflict, with at least 600,000 jobs lost, mainly in agriculture and the service sector.
Another major factor, Lowcock said, is the depreciation of Yemen's currency, the rial, which has lost 47 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in the past year, including 20 percent since September.
"In the last six weeks, the price of the basic food basket has increased 25 percent and is now more than twice pre-crisis levels," he said. "The currency crisis has also forced the price of fuel up by 45 percent" which is impacting transport, water, electricity, health and sanitation services.
Lowcock said approximately 80 percent of food and other basic commodities for the Houthi-controlled north enter Yemen through the ports of Hodeida and Salif. But while imports have substantially increased since the Saudi-led coalition lifted a blockade in late 2017, he said monthly volumes are between 16 percent and 20 percent lower than pre-crisis levels.
Istanbul, Oct 23 (UNB/AP) - Just hours after writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a man strolled out of the diplomatic post apparently wearing the columnist's clothes as part of a macabre deception to sow confusion over his fate, according to surveillance video leaked Monday.
The new video broadcast by CNN, as well as a pro-government Turkish newspaper's report that a member of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's entourage made four calls to the royal's office from the consulate around the same time, put ever-increasing pressure on the kingdom. Meanwhile, Turkish crime-scene investigators swarmed a garage Monday night in Istanbul where a Saudi consular vehicle had been parked.
All this came on the eve of Prince Mohammed's high-profile investment summit in Riyadh, which has seen a raft of the world's top business leaders decline to attend over the slaying of the writer for The Washington Post.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said he would not attend the conference, met with the crown prince on Monday night. The Saudi foreign ministry tweeted out a photo of the two men meeting, and U.S. Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh said in a separate tweet that Mnuchin raised the Kashoggi investigation in his discussions with the crown prince.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised that details of Khashoggi's killing "will be revealed in all its nakedness" in an address he'll make before parliament on Tuesday.
"We are faced with a situation in which it was a brutally planned (killing) and efforts were made to cover it up," said Omer Celik, a spokesman for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party. "God willing, the results will be brought into the open, those responsible will be punished and no one will dare think of carrying out such a thing again."
The kingdom's announcement Saturday that Khashoggi died in a "fistfight" was met with international skepticism and allegations of a cover-up to absolve the 33-year-old crown prince of direct responsibility.
U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that he was "not satisfied with what I've heard," regarding Khashoggi's death. He added: "We will know very soon."
Turkish media reports and officials maintain that a 15-member Saudi team flew to Istanbul on Oct. 2, knowing Khashoggi would enter the consulate to get a document he needed to get married. Once he was inside, the Saudis accosted Khashoggi, cut off his fingers, killed and dismembered the 59-year-old writer, according to Turkish media reports.
Surveillance video on CNN showed the man in Khashoggi's dress shirt, suit jacket and pants, although he wore a different pair of shoes. It cited a Turkish official as describing the man as a "body double" and a member of the Saudi team sent to Istanbul to target the writer. The man walks out of the consulate via its back exit with an accomplice, then takes a taxi to Istanbul's famed Blue Mosque, where he goes to a public bathroom, changes back out of the clothes and leaves. He later eats dinner with his accomplice and goes back to a hotel, where footage shows him smiling and laughing.
The state-run broadcaster TRT later also reported that a man who entered the consulate was seen leaving the building in Khashoggi's clothes.
In the days after Khashoggi vanished, Saudi officials initially said he had left the consulate by its back door. Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khalid bin Salman, a brother of the crown prince, wrote Oct. 8 that Khashoggi had left, and that claims the kingdom "have detained him or killed him are absolutely false, and baseless."
The fact that the Saudi team would allegedly have a man walking around in Khashoggi's clothes would suggest a premeditated plot to kill the writer.
A separate report Monday by newspaper Yeni Safak said Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage seen on trips to the U.S., France and Spain this year, made the calls from the consulate. The newspaper said the four calls went to Bader al-Asaker, the head of Prince Mohammed's office. It said another call went to the United States.
Yeni Safak cited no source for the information. However, pro-government newspapers have been leaking information about Khashoggi's killing, apparently with the help of Turkish security forces. Yeni Safak reported last week that Saudi officials cut off Khashoggi's fingers and then decapitated him at the consulate as his fiancée waited outside.
Officials in Saudi Arabia have not answered repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press in recent days, including on Monday. Saudi Arabia so far has not acknowledged or explained Mutreb's presence in Istanbul or the presence of a forensics and autopsy expert at the consulate before Khashoggi arrived.
Last week, a leaked photo apparently taken from surveillance footage showed Mutreb at the consulate, just ahead of Khashoggi's arrival. Mutreb's name also matches that of a first secretary who once served as a diplomat at the Saudi Embassy in London, according to a 2007 list compiled by the British Foreign Office.
By nightfall, Turkish police began searching an underground car parking garage in Istanbul's Sultangazi district. Surveillance footage on TRT showed what Turkish security officials described as suspicious actions, including an image of a man moving a bag from one vehicle to another.
Meanwhile, Saudi state media reported that both Prince Mohammed and King Salman made calls to Khashoggi's son, Salah, early Monday. Statements from the agency said both the king and the crown prince expressed their condolences for Khashoggi's death.
A Saudi friend of Khashoggi who was in frequent touch with him before his death told the AP that Salah Khashoggi had been under a travel ban and barred from leaving the kingdom since last year as a result of his father's criticism of the government. The friend spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion. The Saudi statements did not acknowledge the ban.
Five Turkish employees of the consulate also gave testimony to prosecutors Monday, Turkish media reported. Istanbul's chief prosecutor had summoned 28 more staff members of the Saudi Consulate, including Turkish citizens and foreign nationals, to give testimony. Some Turkish employees reportedly said they were instructed not to go to work around the time that Khashoggi disappeared.