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Turkey in talks with UN chief over international Khashoggi probe

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accuses Saudi Arabia of obstructing investigation by Istanbul prosecutor's office
Mevlut Cavusoglu

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkey has held talks with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres about opening an international investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, as lack of cooperation from Saudi Arabia was blocking progress on the case.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Ankara was in talks with the UN chief about an investigation into the journalist's death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

“Due to this blockage, the international public opinion started to demand an international investigation. This demand is not only coming from the public but also from other countries, as well as UN itself,” said Cavusoglu.

A Turkish court last week issued arrest warrants for former Saudi intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the royal court and a close aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the request of Istanbul's chief prosecutor.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday rejected the request, telling a news conference in Riyadh: "We do not extradite our citizens."

Riyadh has detained 21 people over the murder and both Assiri and Qahtani have been dismissed from their jobs, but the government has strenuously denied that the crown prince is implicated in the murder.

Cavusoglu criticised Saudi Arabia's refusal to extradite suspects to face trial in Turkey, saying: "Why don't you want these people to be tried in Turkey? I wonder, are you scared that it would be revealed who gave the order for the murder?"

Last week, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet stated that an international investigation was needed to determine who was responsible for the killing.

Human Rights Watch has also called for an international investigation under the authority of the UN secretary general. It says such an inquiry would have the mandate, credibility, and stature to press officials, witnesses and suspects in Saudi Arabia to cooperate with requests for facts and information about the murder.

Cavusoglu said Guterres could demand an investigation, but should do so with the approval of the UN Security Council.

“However, to establish a UN commission for shedding light on the realities is under the authority of the UN secretary general or human rights commissioner. They can do it ex officio, also,” he said.

Cavusoglu said that Turkey had held talks with other countries about the issue at the G20 summit in Argentina earlier this month but expected to move forward with its own murder investigation into the case.

"Our expectation is actually for none of this to be necessary and for Saudi Arabia to cooperate for those responsible to be found out," he said.