UN envoy in Turkey to probe Khashoggi murder

2019-02-02 09:09:41Xinhua Editor : Gu Liping ECNS App Download

A United Nations investigation team held contacts in Turkey this week for a first inquiry of international nature into the brutal killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi nearly four months ago inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The visit of Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to Turkey is the first probe of the murder by an international official as Turkish authorities are pushing for an advanced investigation.

Experts believe that the UN envoy's visit is the result of Turkey's efforts to maintain the case of the slain journalist in the international community's agenda.

"Turkey's arguments for the need of an international inquiry over this shocking murder seem to be accepted by the UN envoy amid Saudi Arabia's uncooperative approach in aiding the investigation," Selcuk Colakoglu, director of the Ankara-based Turkish Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, said to Xinhua.

"Turkey's motivation stems from the fact that the murder happened on its sovereign territory and it is a matter of prestige to get to the bottom of it," pointed out Colakoglu, a professor of international relations.

Turkey has been outraged over the use of a diplomatic mission as a torture chamber as leaks from Turkish officials to local news outlets suggested that Khashoggi was strangled after he entered the compound.

The French official and her team met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday and then flew to Istanbul to convene on Tuesday with chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan. The meetings were closed to the press and Callamard denied interview requests.

On Wednesday, however, Callamard, an independent expert appointed by the UN, spoke to journalist outside the Saudi consulate where she was denied entry the day before, and said her report would be made public in time for the June session of the UN human right council.

Callamard told reporters at the end of her mission in Istanbul that she was "disappointed" not to be permitted to enter the Saudi complex to see for herself where the gruesome murder took place.

Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), blasted the Saudi failure to respond to the UN delegation request as a "scandal."

Before her week-long visit, the UN official said the inquiry was her own initiative, independent of the UN or any government. Turkey, however, had repeatedly called for an international investigation into the killing because of frustration at Saudi Arabia's failure to cooperate and inaction on a joint inquiry.

The Saudi government, tilted into one of its worst diplomatic crisis, has placed 11 officials linked to the high-profile killing on trial in the capital Riyadh, but has refused to extradite to Turkey any of those suspected of being involved in the murder.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Riyadh has not shared with Turkey any information from its own probe regarding the Khashoggi's murder and pointed out that his country would decide what to do once Calllamard submits her report to the UN.

"We can put forward a formal request (for an international investigation), we are ready," he said, quoted on Thursday by Hurriyet daily. He remarked however that the support of other nations would be required and at this stage few of them, he said, are keen to be involved.

"Even if there is no one by our side, we will make a formal request on our own," insisted Turkey's top diplomat.

Observers have argued that Turkey was seeking to instrumentalize the Khashoggi case to boost its influence in the Middle East against its Saudi rival.

Colakoglu argued that to counter those claims, "Ankara should make it very clear that what's in stake in this case is not international politics or regional rivalries" but the fact that this killing should not be left unsolved.

The killing of Khasoggi strained Ankara's relations with Riyadh. The two countries' ties are already tense over the embargo imposed in 2017 by the Kingdom and other Gulf States on Qatar, a close ally of Turkey.

Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed by a Saudi hit squad on October 2 shortly after he entered his country's consulate in Istanbul.

He was dismembered inside the building in what Turkey called a "premeditated murder" orchestrated by the Saudi government and especially the Crown Prince, who denied the charges, blaming it on a "rogue" operation.

His body has not been found as it is suspected by Turkish officials of having been dissolved in acid.

Turkish officials have called publicly for an international investigation, but have not made a formal request for one from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, despite pleas from human rights groups.

Callamard said she also asked for meetings with U.S. officials, including those in the CIA, the State Department and Congress. The U.S. is a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the U.S. has asked the Saudi ruling family, including the crown prince, to hold Khashoggi's killers accountable, but said the relationship with Saudi Arabia is too important to be jeopardized by the killing.

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