ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has not shared audio recordings said to document the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, its foreign minister said on Friday, dismissing reports it had passed them on to the United States.
Saudi Arabia has denied Turkish allegations that Khashoggi was murdered and his body removed from the consulate after he entered on Oct. 2.
Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak has published what it said were details from the audio, including that his torturers severed Khashoggi’s fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.
ABC News, citing a senior Turkish official, reported on Thursday that the recording had been played for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Ankara a day earlier and that he was given a transcript.
Pompeo denied the report, telling reporters, “I’ve heard no tape, I’ve seen no transcript.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters during a trip to Albania: “Turkey has not given a voice recording to Pompeo or any other American official.”
“We will share the results that emerge transparently with the whole world. We have not shared any information at all with any country,” he added.
Turkish police meanwhile are searching a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul and a city near the Sea of Marmara for Khashoggi’s remains, two senior Turkish officials told Reuters on Thursday.
His disappearance and presumed death has caused an international outcry and strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the West.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior ministers from France, Britain and the Netherlands have abandoned plans to attend an Oct. 23-25 investor conference in Riyadh, joining a list of Western business executives and putting the high-profile event in question.
Airbus said on Friday its defence chief Dirk Hoke would no longer attend either.
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Friday allegations regarding Khashoggi would be totally unacceptable if true but any response by Britain would be “considered”.
“Part of our reaction will depend on the Saudi reaction, and whether we sense that they are taking it as seriously as we are taking it. But this is a very, very serious matter,” Hunt told BBC radio.
U.S. President Donald Trump has appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudis, citing Riyadh’s role in countering Iranian influence in the region and tens of billions of dollars in potential arms deals.
He said on Thursday he believes Khashoggi is dead and that the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia will likely be “very severe” but that he wanted to get to the bottom of what happened. He has previously speculated without providing evidence that “rogue killers” could be responsible.
Trump, who has forged closer ties with Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, says the United States has asked Turkey for any audio or video evidence, while Pompeo said Riyadh should be given a few more days to complete its own probe.
A U.S. government source said U.S. intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced of Prince Mohammed’s culpability in the operation against Khashoggi, which they believe resulted in his death.
Prince Mohammed has painted himself as the face of a new, vibrant Saudi Arabia, diversifying its economy away from reliance on oil and making some social changes.
But there has been criticism of some of his moves, including Riyadh’s involvement in the Yemen war, the arrest of women activists, and a diplomatic row with Canada.
Turkish authorities widened the geographic focus of their search after tracking the routes and stops of cars that left the Saudi consulate and the consul’s residence on the day Khashoggi was last seen.
Investigators have recovered many samples from searches of both buildings, senior officials have told Reuters, and will attempt to analyse those for traces of Khashoggi’s DNA.
A pro-government Turkish daily published preliminary evidence last week from investigators who it said had identified a 15-member Saudi intelligence team that arrived in Istanbul on diplomatic passports hours before Khashoggi disappeared.
One name matches a LinkedIn profile for a forensic expert who has worked at the interior ministry for 20 years. Another is identified in a diplomatic directory from 2007 as a first secretary at the Saudi Embassy in London. Others resemble officers in the Saudi Army and Air Force.
A New York Times report, citing witnesses and other records, linked four suspects to Prince Mohammed’s security detail.
Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah on Thursday published a series of photos of a man it identified as someone who travels with the Saudi crown prince. The time-stamped photos showed the man outside the Saudi consulate on the morning Khashoggi disappeared, it said.
Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Washington, Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Writing by David Dolan and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Daren Butler