President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said a recording related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, which Turkey has shared with Western allies, is “appalling” and shocked a Saudi intelligence officer who listened to it, Reuters reported, citing Turkish media reports on Tuesday.
Khashoggi, a critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul Consulate General on Oct. 2 in a hit which Erdoğan says was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
Six weeks after Khashoggi’s death, Turkey is trying to keep up pressure on Prince Mohammed and has released a stream of evidence that undermined Riyadh’s early denials of involvement.
Prince Mohammed won support on Tuesday from US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said he did not think the recording of the killing shared by Turkey implicated the young crown prince.
Erdoğan told reporters on his plane returning from a weekend visit to France that he discussed the Saudi journalist’s killing with the US, French and German leaders there, adding that Turkey had played the recording to at least six countries.
“The recording is really appalling. Indeed, when the Saudi intelligence officer listened to the recording he was so shocked he said, ‘This one must have taken heroin, only someone who takes heroin would do this’,” he added.
Khashoggi’s murder has provoked global outrage but little concrete action by major powers against Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and a strong proponent of US policy to contain Iranian influence across the Middle East.
President Donald Trump has expressed reluctance to punish Saudi Arabia economically, citing its multibillion-dollar purchases of military equipment and investments in US firms.
Bolton said he did not think that people who heard the recording concluded that the crown prince was linked to the killing. “And certainly that is not the position of the Saudi government,” he said in Singapore.
Asked again if the audiotape provided by Turkey did not link Prince Mohammed to the killing in any way, Bolton said, “I haven’t listened to the tape myself, but in the assessment of those who have listened to it, that is right.”
Bolton shares with Saudi Arabia a hawkish stance against Riyadh’s biggest Middle East rival Iran, and he championed Washington’s resumption of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.