The US media has reported that Turkish authorities have recordings proving Khashoggi was murdered in early October. Turkey has accused Saudi Arabia of having a gang of men kill the journalist and remove his body.
The Turkish government has audio and video recordings proving that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier month, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Citing unidentified US and Turkish officials, the report said the recordings indicate the Post columnist and US resident was interrogated, tortured and murdered after he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 to arrange paperwork for a marriage.
It was unclear if US officials had actually seen or heard the recordings, but the Post reported that Turkish officials have described their content to their American counterparts.
Turkey accuses Saudi Arabia of murdering Khashoggi and removing his body from the consulate. On Wednesday, Turkish media released police CCTV surveillance videos said to be of a Saudi "assassination squad" alleged to have been sent to kill Khashoggi. The videos by themselves do not paint a whole picture or show scenes from inside the consulate.
US and Turkish officials have speculated off the record that the group of 15 men may have been sent to kidnap Khashoggi and bring him back to the kingdom, and not kill him.
That assessment appears to be based off of US intelligence communications intercepts.
Riyadh denies involvement
Saudi officials have strongly denied they know anything about the fate of Khashoggi, who was close to the government in Riyadh before becoming critical of the kingdom and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Even as Turkey drip feeds more information about the case to the media and United States, it has been hesitant to go it alone against Saudi Arabia, a regional power with significant financial muscle.
On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's advisor Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara and Riyadh had set up a "joint working group” at the request of the Saudis "to shed light on all sides of Khashoggi case."
Trump's tepid response
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been hesitating to act on the allegations. President Trump has built a strong relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed, who has tried hard to portray himself as a reformer seeking to turn his nation into a tourist destination and innovation hub.
The president did, however, turn his low-key response up a notch late on Thursday when he said during an interview that the journalist's disappearance was unacceptable.
"We can't let it happen. And we're being very tough and we have investigators over there and we're working with Turkey and frankly we're working with Saudi Arabia," Trump said.
He was quick to insist, however, that one means of exerting US influence was off the table – arms sales, because "they are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs." However, the US Congress has the right to impose sanctions and has shown a willingness to do so.
Cory Gardner, a Republican senator, told the press that arms sales would be "a huge concern" if Saudi Arabia were found responsible.
Turkey has been given permission to sweep the Saudi consulate, but has not done so yet.
cw,es/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)