Prince Mohammed bin Salman sought to distance himself from Khashoggi’s death in his first public remarks on the issue Wednesday, during a speech at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. The prince, who has come under suspicion of orchestrating the killing, called it a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.”
Turkish officials say 15 Saudi agents tortured and killed Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, then dismembered his body with a bone saw. A member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage was allegedly part of the hit squad.
Khashoggi’s body has not been found.
Saudi Arabia has put forward several explanations for Khashoggi’s death. They originally said he left the consulate alive, but changed the story Saturday to say he had been killed in a fistfight with rogue Saudi agents.
WATCH BELOW: Saudi Arabia confirms Khashoggi’s death
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Saudi Arabia to turn over 18 nationals accused of involvement in Khashoggi’s death.
“We are determined not to allow the murder to be covered up and for those responsible — from the person who gave the order to those who executed it — not to escape justice,” Erdogan said Wednesday.
Prince Mohammed claimed his critics were using the incident to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He said the two governments are cooperating to “present the perpetrators to the court.”
Turkish officials say Erdogan and Prince Mohammed discussed “the need for joint efforts to shed light on all aspects of the killing,” in a phone call that took place Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump called the situation a “horrible” cover-up on Tuesday. “The cover-up was horrible. The execution was horrible,” he told journalists at the White House. “But there should have never been an execution or a cover-up because it should not have happened.”
WATCH BELOW: Trump criticizes Saudi response to Khashoggi’s death
Trump has backed Prince Mohammed in the past as a central figure in his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
Several international business leaders and officials, including U.S. delegates, pulled out of Wednesday’s investor summit in response to the killing. Nevertheless, approximately 3,000 individuals attended the event, which is often described as “Davos in the Desert.”
Khashoggi was an opinion columnist for the Washington Post and an outspoken critic of Prince Mohammed.
He visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage papers so he could wed his fiancée. She waited outside the consulate for hours, but he never came out.
— With files from the Associated Press
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