Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has visited Turkey for the first time since the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan embraced the prince before they held talks aimed at repairing a deep rift.
Turkey’s president once indirectly accused Prince Mohammed of ordering Saudi agents to kill Jamal Khashoggi. He denied any involvement.
Turkey is currently seeking trade, investment and assistance to help it deal with a worsening economic crisis.
It has also worked to improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel after years of tensions.
Following their talks, a joint statement said the two men discussed improving relations and investment in sectors from energy to defence, among others.
The Saudi crown prince wants to end his international isolation and restore his powerful regional role.
He also visited Jordan and Egypt this week as part of a Middle East tour and next month will meet President Joe Biden, who promised in 2019 to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are” over Khashoggi’s murder.
Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of Prince Mohammed, was last seen entering the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018, where he had gone to get papers needed to marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.
A UN investigator concluded Khashoggi had been “brutally slain” by a 15-strong team of Saudi agents sent from Riyadh, and that his body had been dismembered.
She made that judgement after listening to purported audio recordings of conversations inside the consulate made by Turkish intelligence.
While President Erdogan did not directly accuse Prince Mohammed, he claimed he knew the order to kill Jamal Khashoggi had come “from the highest levels of the Saudi government”.
US intelligence agencies concluded that the crown prince had approved an operation to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi prosecutors blamed “rogue” agents and said the prince had had no knowledge of the operation.
A year after the killing, a Saudi court found five unnamed people guilty of directly participating in the killing and handed them death sentences that were later commuted to 20-year prison terms, while three others were jailed for seven to 10 years for covering up the crime.
Hatice Cengiz condemned the decision to welcome Prince Mohammed to Turkey and vowed to continue her fight for justice.
“The political legitimacy he earns through the visits he makes to a different country every day doesn’t change the fact that he is a murderer,” she tweeted.
The report released by the office of the US director of national intelligence has found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The report released by the Biden administration says the Saudi prince approved a plan to either “capture or kill” Jamal Khashoggi, who was based in the US.
It is the first time the US has publicly named the crown prince, who denies ordering the murder.
Meanwhile, the US announced sanctions on dozens of Saudis but not the prince himself.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Washington Post journalist had once been an adviser to the Saudi government and close to the royal family but he fell out of favor and went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017.
From there, Jamal Khashoggi wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticized the policies of Prince Mohammed.
The report says: “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and is considered to be the effective ruler of the kingdom.
The intelligence report lists three reasons for believing that the Saudi prince must have approved the operation:
his control of decision-making in the kingdom since 2017
the direct involvement in the operation of one of his advisers as well as members of his protective detail
his “support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad”
The report goes on to name individuals allegedly complicit in, or responsible for, Jamal Khashoggi’s death. But it says “we do not know how far in advance” those involved planned to harm him.
Saudi authorities have blamed the killing on a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to return the journalist to the kingdom, and a Saudi court tried and sentenced five individuals to 20 years in prison last September, after initially sentencing them to death.
In 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused the Saudi state of the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Jamal Khashoggi and dismissed the Saudi trial as an “antithesis of justice”.
Shortly after the report was released, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the travel restrictions, dubbed the “Khashoggi Ban”.
Those targeted are “believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities”, he said.
“Perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” Antony Blinken warned.
In addition, the treasury department sanctioned some of those around Prince Mohammed: one of his close aides, former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad Asiri, as well as his personal protective force, which was involved in the killing.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is a key American ally in the Middle East.
President Joe Biden is expected to take a firmer line than his predecessor Donald Trump on human rights and the rule of law in Saudi Arabia.
In a phone call on February 25 with King Salman, President Biden “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law”, the White House said.
According to sources quoted by Reuters, the Biden administration is also considering the cancelation of arms deals with Saudi Arabia that pose human rights concerns as well as the limiting of future military sales to “defensive” weapons.
The trial of 20 Saudi nationals accused of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has begun in absentia in Turkey.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Those being tried include two former top aides to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Jamal Khashoggi was a vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete.
The trial in Istanbul follows an international outcry over the murder, which tarnished the prince’s reputation.
Turkish prosecutors accuse the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and the royal court’s media adviser Saud al-Qahtani of having led the operation and instructed a Saudi hit team.
The other 18 defendants are accused of having suffocated Jamal Khashoggi, whose remains have not been found. Turkish officials say his body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site.
Jamal Khashoggi, who was resident in the US, had entered the consulate seeking papers for his impending wedding.
The journalist’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz is attending the trial alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, who has directly linked the crown prince to the killing, AFP news agency reports.
The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a “rogue operation”.
In December 2019, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to jail for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, but the trial was secretive and the defendants were not named.
Jamal Khashoggi is a high-profile critic of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The journalist has more than 1.6 million Twitter followers and has written for the Washington Post opinion section.
On October 2, he went to the consulate to obtain a document certifying he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
Hatice Cengiz said she waited outside for 11 hours, but he did not come out.
She said Jamal Khashoggi was required to surrender his mobile phone, which is standard practice in some diplomatic missions. He told her to call an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return.
The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, Turan Kislakci, told the New York Times that Turkish police officers providing security for the consulate had checked their security cameras and did not see the journalist leave on foot. However, diplomatic cars had been seen moving in and out.
On October 3, Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg News that Turkish authorities were welcome to search the building because “we have nothing to hide”.
He said: “He’s a Saudi citizen and we are very keen to know what happened to him. And we will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.
“My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour. I’m not sure. We are investigating this through the foreign ministry to see exactly what happened at that time.”
When asked if Jamal Khashoggi faced charges in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said his country would need to know where he was first.
Jamal Khashoggi is one of the most prominent critics of the crown prince, who has unveiled reforms praised by the West while carrying out an apparent crackdown on dissent. Human and women’s rights activists, intellectuals and clerics have been arrested – meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is waging a war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.
Luxury goods worth more than $16 million are to be seized from Saudi Princess Maha Al-Sudairi to pay her shopping bills, a Paris judge ordered on Thursday.
Maha Al-Sudairi, who was once married to Saudi’s late Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, helped herself to millions of dollars worth of goods whenever she visited Paris.
As well as art works and jewellery, they included $8,500 worth of luxury chocolates, and $2.2 million on the hire of two Rolls Royce Phantoms and “around 30 chauffeurs” to take her shopping.
Last year, Maha Al-Sudairi took over an entire floor at the four star Shangri-la Hotel with 60 servants for six months, but failed to settle the $8.5 million bill.
When King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia refused to pay for her stay, the princess claimed diplomatic immunity and moved to the Royal Monceau Hotel nearby.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi, 58, has now been sued by six creditors through a court in the suburb of Nanterre.
A judge ruled that three storage units registered to the princess should be opened, and their contents sold so as to pay off her debts.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, is the divorced wife of the late Saudi Crown Prince and interior minister, Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. He died last June, just as Maha Al-Sudairi left the Shangri-la.
Luxury goods worth more than $16 million are to be seized from Saudi Princess Maha Al-Sudairi to pay her shopping bills in Paris
In 2009 Maha Al-Sudairi was urged to stay away from France after running up unpaid bills of $22 million.
She is known to have bought three storage units in central Paris, where she is believed to have stashed her wares from her shopping trips around Paris– said to include luxury leather goods, artworks, jewellery, and clothing worth up to $16 million.
A spokesman for the Shangri-La said the hotel was pleased at the judge’s ruling, but did not expect the bill to be settled soon.
“The princess’s belongings will need to be valued and then sold at auction, and even then we may need to take international legal action against the princess before we see any cash,” he said.
Maha Al-Sudairi’s fabulously wealthy credentials meant her IOU notes handed to shopkeepers reading “payment to follow” were usually accepted.
Over the past years, up to 30 of Paris’s most exclusive luxury goods retailers have fallen foul of her credit notes.
Jacky Giami, owner of Paris’s Key Largo leisure wear store, said the princess and her relatives pillaged his shop of more than $160,000 worth of stock three years ago.
He said he spent days loitering in the bar of the Georges V hotel hoping to confront her, only to learn she had fled to London.
In 1995, Princess Maha Al-Sudairi was accused of assaulting a servant in Orange County, Florida, whom she suspected of stealing $240, 000 from her. No charges were filed.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi of Saudi tried to dodge paying an $8 million bill from a five-star establishment in Paris, leaving the hotel with her retinue of 60 servants in tow and a mountain of suitcases.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi’s planned escape was always destined to end in farce and fiasco.
She and her entourage were instantly spotted by staff when filing out of the exclusive Shangri-La hotel at 3:30 a.m. last Friday.
They called the police and the wayward ex-wife of Saudi Crown Prince and deputy prime minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz – who is second-in-line to the Saudi throne – was stopped as her extensive luggage was being bundled into a fleet of limousines.
Most offenders in her position would have been arrested on the spot, charged and perhaps would already be behind bars.
But because the princess is protected by diplomatic immunity, police were unable to arrest or even charge her with an offence.
Instead the French authorities can only approach the Saudi Embassy in a bid to get them to help.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi of Saudi tried to dodge paying an $8 million bill from a five-star establishment in Paris, leaving the hotel with her retinue of 60 servants in tow and a mountain of suitcases
In the meantime the princess and her small army of servants have been offered refuge from their troubles – at another luxury hotel, the Royal Monceau, near the Champs-Elysees.
The five-star hotel is owned by “family friend”, the Emir of Qatar, who has offered to put her up while the matter is resolved. Princess Maha Al-Sudairi arrived in Paris with her entourage on December 23 last year and booked out an entire 41-room floor of the Shangri-La.
Up until then Princess Maha Al-Sudairi had been confined to a palace in the middle eastern state by Saudi King Abdullah after leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills with luxury firms across Europe, reportedly including Dior, jewellery outlets Chaumet and Victoria Casal, and at least one hotel.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi repeatedly dodged demands from the hotel to settle her ballooning bill, the newspaper Le Parisien reported.
Matters finally came to a head last week when police found her and her servants attempting to leave the hotel. This is not the first time the royal has found herself in hot water.
Her global over-spending has been well-documented in the past.
Princess Maha Al-Sudairi was originally “cut off” by a furious King Abdullah after racking up massive debts all over the world during the last few years.
In June 2009, Princess Maha Al-Sudairi claimed diplomatic immunity in France after amassing $24 million in unpaid shopping bills, including $100,000 on designer lingerie alone.
The following year, she was once again bailed out by her oil-rich government after she ordered $30,000 worth of glassware and silverware from a Paris store.
Despite this, her fabulously wealthy credentials meant the “IOU” notes handed to shopkeepers which read “payment to follow” were usually accepted.
Over the years, up to 30 of Paris’s most exclusive retailers have fallen foul of her bouncing credit notes, French newspapers reported.
Shop owner Jacky Giami, who owns Paris’s Key Largo leisure wear store, said the princess and her relatives had more than $160,000 worth of his stock.
Last night, police in Paris said they were unable to arrest or charge Princess Maha Al-Sudairi because she was claiming diplomatic immunity. They said they would be asking the Saudi embassy to help settle her accounts.
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