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TURKEY’S authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded today that Saudi officials hand over the 18 suspects arrested in connection with the Jamal Khashoggi murder to face trial in Ankara.
He was addressing a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s Grand Assembly when he demanded to know who ordered the “savage murder” of Mr Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Mr Erdogan said those responsible must be held to account, asserting the murder had been planned in advance and asking: “Where is the body of Jamal Khashoggi?”
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his father King Salman met the son and brother of Mr Khashoggi in Riyadh to offer condolences as the Saudis embarked on a rapid PR campaign with international pressure intensifying.
Foreign Minister Mehmet Cavusoglu said Turkey had not released evidence of what happened to the dissident journalist, although he hinted that it may have been shared between intelligence services.
Mr Erdogan is accused of using the political fallout from the Khashoggi murder to boost his standing as part of a regional power struggle with the Saudi crown prince.
The brutal dictator, who has clamped down on dissent in Turkey where journalists and political opponents are routinely jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges, has long tried to position himself as a leader of the Muslim world with Ankara as an Islamic power base.
He has allied with Riyadh’s rivals Qatar and is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, offering shelter to those forced to flee after the fall of ousted Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi.
Mr Erdogan has encouraged the spread of political Islam in Turkey and beyond with a rival vision for the future of the Middle East to that of the Crown Prince.
As he delivered his speech in the Turkish parliament the Future Investment Initiative forum — the so-called “Davos in the Desert” conference — opened in Riyadh.
Despite being boycotted by a number of business and political leaders, the economic forum, which is the brainchild of Prince Mohammad is expected to raise $50 billion in deals for the Gulf kingdom.
Germany announced on Monday that it would halt its arms trade with Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi affair.
However, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s motives were questioned as Berlin has continued supplying weapons to Riyadh during the three-year bombing of Yemen which has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
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