Mike Pompeo Meets Turkish President to Discuss Saudi Journalist’s Fate

Mike Pompeo Meets Turkish President to Discuss Saudi Journalist’s Fate

ISTANBUL — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Wednesday with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, trying to resolve the international uproar over the alleged killing of a journalist inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and said that Saudi officials had promised consequences for anyone — even a member of the royal family — found responsible.

Mr. Pompeo arrived in Ankara, the Turkish capital, as a barrage of new information leaked by unidentified Turkish officials appeared in news outlets, giving gruesome details of what they say are audio recordings of Jamal Khashoggi being assaulted, tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate two weeks ago.

A senior Turkish official confirmed to The New York Times that details of the recordings published in a pro-government newspaper were correct, but The Times has not heard the recordings. The Turkish media are largely state-controlled, and the government has used a stream of leaks about Mr. Khashoggi to apply pressure on the Saudis.

After meeting on Tuesday with top Saudi officials, including King Salman and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mr. Pompeo told reporters early Wednesday before leaving Riyadh, the Saudi capital: “They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that. Whether they are a senior officer or official, they promised accountability.”

Asked if that included members of the royal family, he said, “They made no exceptions to who they would hold accountable.”

Several of the people identified by Turkish officials as being among the Saudis who carried out the killing have ties to the crown prince, who is considered the power behind the throne, and Western intelligence officials say that such an operation would have required his blessing. The Turks contend that a team of Saudi officials flew to Istanbul, killed Mr. Khashoggi and disposed of his body, and left the country hours after they arrived.

After meeting with Mr. Erdogan and other Turkish officials, Mr. Pompeo said repeatedly that the Trump administration was withholding judgment until seeing the results of the Turkish and Saudi investigations. He rejected a suggestion that he was giving the Saudis the benefit of the doubt, adding, “It’s reasonable to give them a handful of days to get it right.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the alleged killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist, took place amid Republican calls for the White House to take a harder stance against the kingdom.Published OnCreditCreditImage by Pool photo by Leah Millis

He also sought to tamp down expectations that the United States might punish Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relations, financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, government relationships, things that we work on all across the world,” he told reporters on his plane after leaving Ankara. “We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that as we approach decisions that the United States government will take when we learn all of the facts.”

Asked about the reported recordings of the killing, he said, “I don’t have anything to say about that.”

Though Turkish officials have expressed frustration with what they describe as Saudi stalling, Mr. Pompeo said that Mr. Erdogan had “made clear that the Saudis had cooperated with the investigation,” and that Turkish leaders were “pretty confident that the Saudis were going to permit them to do the things they needed.”

Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who wrote columns for The Washington Post, entered the consulate on Oct. 2 for a meeting to obtain a document confirming his divorce, to allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée the next day. Saudi officials have said he walked out of the building safe and sound, but no evidence of that has been made public.

Mr. Erdogan has not publicly accused Saudi Arabia of abducting or killing Mr. Khashoggi, but he has demanded answers. A joint Saudi-Turkish inquiry has begun and investigators spent hours searching inside the consulate building Monday night. They have also requested access to search the consulate’s vehicles and the consul’s personal residence.

On Tuesday, Mr. Erdogan said that a focus of the investigation was the possibility that parts of the consulate had been repainted to hide evidence.

Investigators were examining the movements of 26 consulate vehicles, using surveillance camera recordings and GPS signals, according to the newspaper Yeni Safak, which is close to the government. That has prompted them to search a farmhouse in Yalova Province, south of Istanbul, and the forest of Belgrad, just north of the city, the newspaper reported.

In a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast on Sunday, President Trump vowed “severe punishment” if the Saudis were responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, and he has said he was sending Mr. Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to get to the bottom of the matter. But this week, he has emphasized Saudi denials.

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Turkish news outlets reported having heard audio recordings from inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul made when the journalist Jamal Khashoggi met his end.CreditPetros Giannakouris/Associated Press

Mr. Pompeo met with Mr. Erdogan for 40 minutes at Ankara’s airport Wednesday morning, along with Turkey’s intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan; Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu; and the national security adviser, Ibrahim Kalin. Mr. Pompeo later held a separate meeting with Mr. Cavusoglu, and he flew out immediately after without making any comment to the news media.

Mr. Cavusoglu described the meeting, which covered the case of Mr. Khashoggi among other issues, as useful and fruitful. “Pompeo said he relayed Trump’s thoughts and concerns to Riyadh,” he said. “We had said before that Saudis should cooperate with us.”

On Wednesday afternoon, for the first time, Turkish investigators entered the consul’s residence, part of what Mr. Cavusoglu said was an expansive investigation being conducted by the Turkish prosecutor. They were first allowed to search the consulate on Monday, 13 days after Mr. Khashoggi went there.

Mr. Cavusoglu said that Saudi officials had appeared to obstruct access to the residence on Tuesday because members of the consul’s family were present. The consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, left Turkey for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

American officials have said that the Saudis were preparing to say that Mr. Khashoggi was killed accidentally during an interrogation, but there has been no such admission so far.

Turkey has sought American help in getting answers from Saudi Arabia about Mr. Khashoggi’s fate, but despite agreeing to conduct a joint investigation, after King Salman and Mr. Erdogan spoke by phone on Sunday, the two sides remain poles apart. Saudi leaders continue to deny hurting Mr. Khashoggi, and Turkish officials remain firm in their insistence that he was killed.

Yeni Safak, the pro-government newspaper, reported on Wednesday that it had had access to an audio recording, apparently made inside the consulate, of the minutes during which Mr. Khashoggi met his end, and said there was more than one recording. Other news organizations reported on descriptions of the recordings provided by Turkish officials.

In one of the recordings, Mr. Otaibi, is heard pleading with the perpetrators to conduct the assault outside the consulate, Yeni Safak reported.

“Do this outside. You will get me in trouble,” the newspaper quotes the consul as saying. “‘If you want to live, shut up!’ is the response,” it added.


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