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A LOT OF HOT AIR

All the most important details from Erdogan’s speech about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

By Annabelle Timsit
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 has sparked an international crisis that came to an underwhelming head this morning (Oct. 23) with a parliamentary speech by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Here are the most important elements of his speech, in which Erdoğan had promised he would reveal the “naked truth” of what happened:

  • The Turkish president was due to give his speech at 11:45 a.m. local time—almost exactly the same time as Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman was meant to give a speech at Davos in the Desert, a major investment conference in Riyadh. Minutes before the scheduled start time, reporters attending the conference in Saudi Arabia were informed that bin Salman, commonly referred to as MBS, would not be speaking.
  • Erdoğan pointed to evidence that suggests Khashoggi was the victim of a “gruesome” premeditated and political murder, which the Turkish government would ensure was not covered up. Given Erdoğan’s dismal record on press freedom–Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists—analysts say this criticism is more tied to Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions in the region than moral outrage over the murder of a journalist on Turkish soil.
  • Erdoğan said he had agreed with Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, known as King Salman, to create a joint group to investigate the murder. (Considering the Saudis are accused of orchestrating the murder, reasonable doubt can be cast on the independence of the working group.) He also said he spoke with US president Donald Trump on Monday (Oct. 21), whose shifting views on the incident have caused some consternation in the US.
  • The Turkish president asked a series of questions, many of which observers hoped he would answer this morning: Whose orders were the 15 people (paywall) arrested by the Saudi government in connection with the case following? Why was the consulate not opened to investigators immediately after Khashoggi’s disappearance became known? Why did the Saudis give so many conflicting statements? Who is the local Turkish collaborator the Saudi consulate said disposed of Khashoggi’s body?

For those hoping for new details in a case that has attracted immense international attention, Erdoğan’s speech was underwhelming—there was no “naked truth” revealed. He did not offer any audio or video evidence of the claims that Kashoggi was brutally murdered by Saudi security forces inside the Saudi consulate, even though analysts believe he has that evidence. The only truly new detail was that three people had arrived in Turkey from Riyadh on Oct. 1 and scouted a forest near Istanbul—the implication being, according to The Guardian‘s Middle East editor, Martin Chulov, that they “were looking for a place to discard Khashoggi’s remains.”)

Most significantly, Erdoğan made no mention of MBS, who has been accused of having knowledge of the assassination ahead of time. Rather, the Turkish president focused on MBS’s father, King Salman. In a crucial moment in his speech, Erdoğan said that he did not “doubt the sincerity of King Salman. That being said, [an] independent investigation needs to be carried out.”

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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