Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir on Sunday told Fox News, "We are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder." Turkish President Erdogan is expected on Tuesday to give details of Turkey's investigation into Khashoggi's fate.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. (Wikimedia Commons)
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. (Wikimedia Commons) ()

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Sunday admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered.

Speaking on Fox News  Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir on Sunday said, "We are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder."

It appears to be the first time Saudi Arabia has publicly admitted to murdering Khashoggi and also the latest shift in the Saudi narrative on the fate of journalist and prominent Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi after he disappeared in Turkey on October 2, which up until now has been called a 'killing.'

The new Saudi narrative is that Khashoggi was murdered in what Riyadh insists was a rogue operation.

Al Jubeir said Khashoggi was approached by a "Saudi security team" when he entered the consulate and their account of what happened after that differed from that of Turkish officials, which prompted the Saudis to investigate.

"He was killed in the consulate. We don’t know in terms of details how."

"The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority," he said.

"There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable to the government."

"We don’t know where the body is," Jubeir said. "We are determined to uncover every stone."

Jubeir was the first senior Saudi official to speak on the record since the Saudis admitted on Saturday that Khashoggi was dead.

Erdogan expected to outline details of Turkey's findings

Turkey is expected on Tuesday to announce details of its investigation into the Khashoggi's death.

The announcement on Sunday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will "go into detail" about the Khashoggi case in a speech in parliament heightened hopes for some clarity in a case that has been shrouded in mystery, conflicting accounts and shocking allegations since Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Erdogan spoke after Saudi Arabia, in a statement early Saturday finally acknowledged that 59-year-old Khashoggi had died in the consulate, though its explanation that he was killed in a "fistfight" was met with international skepticism and allegations of a cover-up designed to absolve the crown prince and presumed heir-apparent to the Saudi throne of any responsibility. 

Saudi Arabia said 18 Saudis were arrested and that several top intelligence officials were fired.

Local media in Turkey have reported a different story, saying a Saudi hit squad of 15 people travelled to Turkey to kill the veteran journalist and Washington Post columnist before leaving the country hours later in private jets.

"Why did these 15 people come here? Why were 18 people arrested? All of this needs to be explained in all its details," Erdogan said.

Meanwhile, Istanbul's chief prosecutor summoned 28 more staff members of the Saudi consulate, including Turkish citizens and foreign nationals, to give testimony on Monday, Turkish public broadcaster TRT reported. 

Prosecutors have previously questioned consulate staff. Turkish employees reportedly said they were instructed not to go to work around the time that Khashoggi disappeared.

Also Sunday, images obtained by TRT World showed Khashoggi as he arrived at a police barrier before entering the consulate on October 2. The images, taken from security camera video, show the writer being searched before continuing toward the building.

Shifting sands of Saudi narrative

The Saudis have laid out different versions of the circumstances that led to Khashoggi's. All of them shield King Salman and his son and from any involvement. Both of the king and bin Salman said they knew nothing of Khashoggi's fate.

Jubeir said Khashoggi's murder was a terrible mistake and offered condolences to his family. 

The Saudi Press Agency said late on Sunday that King Salman and the crown prince also called Khashoggi's son, Salah, to express their condolences, 

The journalist has relatives still living in Saudi Arabia and three children who hold US citizenship.

"This is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible tragedy. Our condolences go out to them. We feel their pain," Jubeir said in the Fox interview. "Unfortunately, a huge and grave mistake was made and I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable for this."

International furore over killing continues

The changing Saudi narrative has not mollifed even supporters of the monarchy.

A leading US Senate Republican said the Saudi explanation wasn't credible.

Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday on CNN's "State of the Union" that he believed bin Salman was behind the killing.

The crown prince has "now crossed a line and there has to be a punishment and a price paid for that," Corker said.

He also urged Turkey to turn over purported audio recordings of Khashoggi's killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The existence of such evidence has been reported in Turkish media in a series of leaks, though Turkish officials have yet to publicly confirm they have recordings.

"The Turks have been talking more to the media than they have us," Corker said of the NATO ally.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican close to Trump, said on Sunday, “I think it stretches credulity to believe the crown prince wasn’t involved in this,” 

Talking to “Fox News Sunday,” he added that Mohammad bin Salman should be replaced and the US should re-consider its arms sales to the kingdom not just because Khashoggi's killing but also over the war in Yemen.

California Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said on ABC's "This Week" that the killing should be a "relationship-altering" event for the US and Saudi Arabia, which has said it will retaliate against any economic sanctions or other moves against it.

"We ought to suspend military sales, we ought to suspend certain security assistance and we ought to impose sanctions on any of those that were directly involved in this murder," Schiff said.

US President Donald Trump had also talked about possible punishment but said he didn't want to halt a proposed $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia because, he maintained, it would harm US manufacturers. 

He initially said he believed the Saudi account. 

Speaking late Saturday Trump said he needs to learn more about the killing and will be working with Congress on the US response. He also said he will talk soon to bin Salman, with whom his son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner has a close relationship.

Britain, Germany and France issued a joint statement condemning the killing of Khashoggi, saying there is an "urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened."

In a statement Sunday, the governments said attacks on journalists are unacceptable and "of utmost concern to our three nations." They said the "hypotheses" proposed so far in the Saudi investigation need to be backed by facts to be considered credible.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Berlin will not export arms to Saudi Arabia while the current uncertainty over the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi persists.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier later also pressed for a joint European Union position on Saudi Arabia.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies