Istanbul, Turkey – If missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is found to be murdered, it will harm not only Saudi Arabia’s relations with Turkey but also Riyadh’s relations with the world, two Turkish senior ruling party members told Al Jazeera.
The already sensitive relations between the two regional rivals have suffered a new blow after Khashoggi disappeared during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, entered the consulate on October 2 to obtain some documents required for his forthcoming wedding but never came out, Turkish authorities and his friends say.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Saudi Arabia explain what happened to Khashoggi, whom he called a “friend”.
Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan and also a friend of Khashoggi’s, told Al Jazeera they were trying to hold on to the hope that the dissident writer was still alive.
“And thus we are hoping that our relations with Saudi Arabia gets affected as minimum as possible,” Aktay said, advising caution on statements until the investigation is finalised.
“If he is really murdered, it is not only Saudi-Turkish relations that will suffer, but the world’s relations with Saudi Arabia will get significantly harmed,” he said, echoing Erdogan in asking for an explanation from Riyadh.
Ahmet Berat Conkar, a member of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, agreed that Saudi Arabia’s image would be tarnished in the international arena if it is confirmed that Khashoggi was murdered.
“No state within the international community can ignore or tolerate such a move, both in humanistic and legal manners,” Conkar, an MP from Erdogan’s ruling party, said.
“In that case, Turkey would use the available mechanisms, in terms of bilateral relations and international law, and call Saudi Arabia to account for its action.”
Over a week into Khashoggi’s disappearance, his whereabouts are still unknown, with Turkish and Saudi authorities putting forward conflicting statements over the issue.
Turkish anonymous sources told media that there was evidence the Saudi journalist was killed inside the consulate building, while Saudi officials say the journalist left the consulate.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministry in Ankara said that Saudi authorities will allow Turkish authorities to search the consulate premises.
Ankara and Riyadh have been at odds on various regional issues in recent times.
Riyadh backed the 2013 coup led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt against Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi. Ankara staunchly opposed it.
Saudi Arabia, which views the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, strongly opposes Ankara’s ties to the group.
The Erdogan government has also been the most crucial backer of Qatar, after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a blockade on the Gulf country in 2017. The presence of a Turkish military base in Qatar also invited Saudi displeasure.
Economic ties, on the other hand, are solid, with Saudi Arabia among Turkey’s top 20 export destinations while Saudi businesses have invested in Turkish companies. More than half a million Saudi tourists visit Turkey every year.
The United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom have all called for a thorough and transparent investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has cultivated good relations with Riyadh, took almost a week to comment on the possible death of Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post newspaper.
Mensur Akgun, a professor of international relations at Kultur University, said that the mild reaction to the incident coming from Trump was not unexpected.
“Trump’s track record, performance and relations with Saudi Arabia suggest that Washington is likely to merely use the Khashoggi case as a tool to get concessions from Riyadh in areas such as arms deals or convince them to pursue US policies.”
Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras