Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu pointedly criticized President Trump’s statement that was released on Tuesday regarding the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudis.
The Saudis now admit that Khashoggi was murdered in their consulate in Istanbul after he was lured there in October but deny that the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, is responsible. The Turkish government and the CIA have determined that MBS had Khashoggi, a dissident who was critical of the royal family’s policies, murdered.
President Trump sided with the Saudis in his statement saying, “King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi” and “we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi”. The statement continued, “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
Cavusoglu told the CNN affiliate in Turkey, “We found the US President’s statement about MBS’s involvement where he said ‘Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t,’ interesting. What he based this on, we don’t know.”
A day after the president stated that the CIA’s assessment of Khashoggi’s murder was based on “feelings” and adding that the CIA never “concluded” the MBS was responsible, the Foreign Minister said that the President’s statement on Tuesday was the wrong approach.
“In a way, Mr. Trump’s statement means ‘Come what may, I will turn a blind eye on this.’ This approach is wrong. Money is not everything. We should not distance ourselves from human values,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk, a CNN affiliate.CNN
President Trump has said that the US financial relationship with Saudi Arabia is indispensable, pointing to arms deals and low oil prices, and told reporters on Thursday, “Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs – and frankly, if we went by this standard, we wouldn’t have anybody as an ally.”
After a Thanksgiving call to the troops on Thursday which covered a wide and unusual range of political topics, Trump told reporters, “Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place,” when asked who should be held responsible for Khashoggi’s death. He added, “So I hate the crime and I hate what is done and I hate the cover-up. And I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do.”
The US government has sanctioned 17 individuals the Saudi government has accused of killing Khashoggi, but on Tuesday, Trump’s statement announced there would be no further punishment of the Saudis. CBS News reports that the president’s statement “sent shockwaves across Washington and was described by critics as akin to propaganda for the Saudis”. CBS News also reports that a US intelligence official confirms that the president has been provided with the CIA’s assessment of Saudi involvement in the murder. According to CBS News, Trump refuses to listen to the audio of the murder that has been provided by the Turkish government.
USA Today reports that Democrats and Republicans have objected to the president’s unwillingness to cross Saudi Arabia on the matter and that unwillingness may result in a battle even before the Democrats take control of the House.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, outgoing Senator Bob Corker, has requested a briefing on Khashoggi’s murder from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. The hearing is scheduled for next week when congress reconvenes, according to USA Today. Senators Corker and Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, used a provision of the Magnitsky Act to force the Trump administration to determine if MBS is responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.