Turkish foreign minister criticizes Saudis; says 'didn't share anything' on Khashoggi murder

  • Turkey still hasn't received actionable information on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, its foreign minster Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC Sunday.
  • "Their chief prosecutor got everything from us, he didn't share anything with us," Cavusoglu said during the annual Doha Forum in Qatar.
  • Turkey has put unprecedented political pressure on Riyadh since the October 2 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, where local authorities say a 15-member Saudi hit squad strangled and dismembered the U.S. resident known for his criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Turkey still hasn't received actionable information on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, its foreign minster Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC Sunday.

"So far we haven't been provided any information from the ongoing investigation in Saudi Arabia. Their chief prosecutor got everything from us, he didn't share anything with us. We want a transparent, credible, swift investigation on Saudi side as well," Cavusoglu told the network's Hadley Gamble at the annual Doha Forum in Qatar. The minister has previously vowed to get to the bottom of the case and hold those responsible to account.

Turkey has put unprecedented political pressure on Riyadh since the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where local authorities say a 15-member Saudi hit squad strangled and dismembered the U.S. resident known for his criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Turkish president Recep Erdogan announced that the hit job was orchestrated at the "highest levels" of the Saudi government, implying involvement of the powerful crown prince but stopping short of naming him or his father, King Salman.

The Saudis deny any involvement by the crown prince, maintaining that the death was the result of a premeditated rendition plan gone awry after having offered multiple contradictory explanations.

Among the many questions remaining unanswered is that of the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains.

"We don't know where the body is," the minister said. "This is the main question -- we need to find out. They said they had local collaborators; they haven't provided the names of collaborators."

Riyadh and Ankara have launched their own investigations, which have resulted in Saudi Arabia charging 11 people and announcing the death penalty for five, but have not released their names. Turkish authorities have called for the Saudi assailants to be tried in Turkey but so far to no avail. The U.S. in November placed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, and U.S. lawmakers have pushed a bipartisan resolution condemning the crown prince as guilty.

U.S. President Donald Trump in November made clear his commitment to supporting the Saudi Crown Prince, essentially absolving him of involvement despite reported conclusions from the CIA that bin Salman directed the killing.

Meanwhile, Cavusoglu said Saudi officials have listened to tapes of Khashoggi's murder, contradicting earlier statements by Saudi foreign minister Adel al Jubeir that the Saudis had not heard them. Turkish intelligence shared the recordings with their counterparts in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

After a closed-door congressional briefing in Washington in early December with CIA director Gina Haspel, who listened to the tapes in Ankara, U.S. lawmakers said they emerged more convinced than ever that the kingdom's crown prince was directly involved.

"You can hear very clearly that they planned in advance to kill him," Cavusoglu said, reminding the audience that a forensic expert had been brought into the consulate to cut Khashoggi's body apart. "From the beginning we've been willing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia as well, since all these perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia and now they are arrested there and we accepted immediately the proposal coming from them for cooperation with our prosecutors."

Turkey's record with journalists: Is Erdogan a hypocrite?

Amid Ankara's accusations toward Saudi Arabia, human rights groups point out that Turkey's government is one of the most hostile to journalists on the planet. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 25 journalists were killed in Turkey since 1992. Hundreds remain in jail, with more than 120 arrested since the failed military coup in 2016 that attempted to ouster Erdogan. The state has forced the closure of most independent news outlets, leading Amnesty International to label Turkey a "dungeon" for journalists.

But Cavusoglu rejected suggestions that Erdogan in this context could be called a hypocrite, saying that "Turkey is committed to freedoms" but adding that the "trauma" the country has faced in recent years made security a top priority. He claimed that Turkey's judiciary was in charge of those arrests and that domestic legislation has been reformed based on the "recommendations and the standards of the Council of Europe and the EU."

In a staunch defense of the president, the minister emphasized the difference between judiciary proceedings leading to journalists' arrests and the "brutal killing" that took Khashoggi's life.

Those in Turkey "have been through investigation, judicial process," he said. "Cutting people in pieces is something else, premeditated murder is something else. Are you trying to say it's the fault of President Erdogan that this guy was killed? President Erdogan has been so determined from the beginning to go to the end of this case and reach the outcome of this investigation. We haven't accepted any proposal to end this case."

Human Rights Groups like Amnesty International and the CPJ say that Turkey's legal proceedings are not transparent, and that many of those currently imprisoned have never faced trial.

Washington 'has better intelligence'

Asked whether he was disappointed in the White House's response to the Khashoggi case, Cavusoglu was less forceful.

They've heard the tapes and have the intelligence, he said -- now it is "up to them" to decide what to do. "They have better intelligence probably... and maybe it was not him."

But the Turkish president's position on the matter has been made clear, he added. "We have been discussing this issue with our American friends and colleagues. They have their own understanding of this murder, this is our own one."

On why Trump has refused to further hold the Saudis, and particularly the crown prince, to account, Cavusoglu replied, "I don't know. You should ask him."