Turkey did not give Secretary of State Mike Pompeo access to any of the audio of dissident and columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s last moments in a Saudi Arabian consulate, the NATO ally’s top diplomat said Friday.
“Turkey did not give anyone or any country the recording,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, according to the local Hurriyet Daily News.
Pompeo stressed the need to allow Saudi Arabia time to investigate the fate of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who has not been seen since entering a Saudi diplomatic facility in Istanbul. That position drew skepticism, especially following Turkish leaks that suggested that Pompeo had heard audio of Khashoggi’s torture and murder during his recent trip to the region.
“Secretary Pompeo has neither heard a tape nor has he seen a transcript related to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed in a Thursday evening statement.
Nauert issued that denial in response to a “senior Turkish official” who claimed otherwise. “The official claimed the recording was played in meetings in Turkey on Wednesday, and that Pompeo was given a transcript of the recordings,” ABC News reported.
The confusion attests to the difficulty of finding reliable information in a controversy involving two U.S. allies that are at loggerheads in unrelated diplomatic disputes, one of whom, Turkey, also has a strained relationship with the United States.
“The Turks have a notoriously bad media environment, in terms of just honest reporting; the Turks [also] have a notoriously sketchy intelligence service, the MIT,” Jonathan Schanzer, a vice president at the Foundations for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner in a recent interview. “More broadly, the Turks have sided with the Qataris in the Gulf spat, which would give them a reason to target the Saudis. So even though the evidence does appear to be stacked up against Saudi Arabia, there are lingering concerns.”
The Turkish investigation is also ongoing. “Employees of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul are giving testimony at the Turkish prosecutor's office,” according to Daily Sabah. “As many as 15 employees were being questioned on Friday, including the consul's driver, technicians, accountants and telephone operators.”