Solving the Khashoggi murder has become a matter of honor for the government. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on the matter show he is not prepared to let this matter rest.
The fact that he knew Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct.2, probably adds to Erdogan’s determination on this score.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spelled Turkey’s position out on Wednesday in a speech he delivered in parliament.
“At this stage we need an international inquiry. Whatever turns out to be the case, we will do our utmost to solve this murder with all its dimensions. Trying to cover it up or to coming to some arrangement over it is unacceptable” Cavusoglu said.
For good measure he emphasized that Turkey was not “bluffing.” Cavusoglu is effectively telling Riyadh not to come with “indecent proposals” in order to cover up this crime.
Ankara is in a strong position because it has the backing of European countries that are also demanding that the Saudi regime come clean over this affair. Some western countries have already slapped sanctions on Riyadh by stopping arm sales.
Where Ankara’s position is weak, though, is in its own region. To start with most Arab countries, that are already suspicions of Turkey’s regional agenda, are not supporting Ankara in this affair. The Gulf States – with the obvious exception of Qatar- and Egypt have already thrown their weight behind the Kingdom against Turkey.
Little is heard from Lebanon, Jordan or Iraq about the need to solve this crime. They look to Saudi Arabia in one way or another, and would not want to undermine their ties with Riyadh; especially not for Turkey’s sake. The murder of a journalist is not major news for them either.
This situation works to Riyadh’s advantage. By pulling Arab states to its side Riyadh can isolate Ankara even more in a region which is not enamored by what is seen as “Turkish meddling.”
The most significant outcome of this affair, however, is likely to be the poisoning of the relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which was generally loveless to start with.
Aware of this Ankara is trying to work with Riyadh to solve this matter, and insists on keeping King Salman’s name free from taint.
It is, however, pointing a finger indirectly at Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman. He is not named, of course, but Erdogan has referred to the need to go to the highest levels, if necessary, to solve this crime. The message is clear.
Diplomatic as Ankara may try to be, it is unlikely that the Saudi regime will look too kindly on a Turkey that is demanding things which will shake the house of Saud to the core.
It is still not clear how this affair will play out in the end. What is clear, though, is that Turkish-Saudi ties will not be the same again after the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.