UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY FOREIGN MINISTER
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is ready to cooperate if an international investigation is launched into the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey's foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Speaking at Anadolu Agency’s Editor's Desk, Mevlut Cavusoglu said it is "important" that Saudi Arabia accepted the killing of Khashoggi, although it was a late statement.
Turkey has not shared evidence on the Khashoggi case with any country, but there may be meetings between intelligence services, Cavusoglu added.
He also said that Turkey is ready to cooperate in a possible probe into the case at UN, international courts or institutions.
Remarks of Cavusoglu come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to announce the initial findings of Ankara's investigation Tuesday and mounting skepticism over the Saudi explanation of what happened to the U.S. resident and Saudi Arabian national.
After denying knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts for two weeks, Saudi Arabia on Saturday said he was killed during a fight inside its Istanbul Consulate.
His body has not been recovered, nor has Saudi Arabia explained its shifting narrative on what transpired.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
On the day of his disappearance, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while he was still inside, according to Turkish police sources. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.
A joint Turkish-Saudi team completed an investigation into the case on Thursday after searching the residence of the Saudi consul general as well as the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
– Turkey-US ties
Cavusoglu said the Turkey-U.S. ties were strained due to the U.S.’s support to the terrorist group YPG and their stance on the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) — not because of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson who was freed earlier this month.
Brunson was arrested in December 2016 and charged in the Aegean province of Izmir for being a member of the FETO, the group behind a defeated coup earlier that year.
After being transferred this July from jail to house arrest, Brunson was sentenced to just over three years in prison, but released due to time served and his good behavior in custody.
As the PKK terror campaign has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths in Turkey, American support for its Syrian offshoot has long vexed Ankara.
Calling the PYD/PKK-led umbrella group, the SDF, a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh, Washington continues to provide it with arms and equipment, even as Turkey stresses its terrorist identity.
The foreign minister also called on the U.S. to take action against FETO, saying it was “unacceptable” that the U.S. continues to host the terror group that attempted a coup in Turkey.
Turkey shared all documents on FETO with the teams from the U.S. Department of State and the FBI — which launched an investigation on FETO — who came to Ankara, Cavusoglu added.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
Cavusoglu added that Turkey will not allow PKK/YPG to take part in the Syrian constitutional committee, which will be established under the UN's watch.
“Russia is aware that YPG is a terrorist organization,” he added.
Following a meeting in Sochi, Russia, last month between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two countries agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold.
Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
– Cyprus issue
The minister also touched on the possible reunification talks between the Turkish and Greek sides of long-divided Mediterranean island Cyprus.
Cavusoglu said another failure in any future Cyprus reunification talks were "unacceptable".
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after a 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish people, and Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power.
There has been an on-and-off peace process over recent years, the latest failed initiative having taken place in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in July 2017 under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K.