U.S.-based Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was "murdered in a ferocious manner," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
Erdogan contended that Saudi Arabia carried out the killing in its Istanbul consulate in a premeditated plot, and dismissed Riyadh's claim that "rogue agents" were responsible.
"All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder," Erdogan told the Turkish parliament in Ankara. "To cover up such savagery would hurt the human conscience."
The Turkish leader said "to blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community."
Erdogan demanded that whoever ordered the killing of Khashoggi must "be brought to account," and that the 18 officials already arrested by Saudi Arabia in connection with the killing stand trial in Istanbul.
In Washington, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Erdogan's assessment of the killing "underscores the determination" of the Trump administration "to find out what happened."
"The word from President Erdogan this morning that this brutal murder was premeditated, pre-planned days in advance, flies in the face of earlier assertions that had been made by the Saudi regime," he said.
"The world is watching," Pence said at an event at The Washington Post, where Khashoggi wrote opinion columns that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country's de facto leader. "The American people want answers, and we will demand that those answers are forthcoming."
Erdogan told Turkish lawmakers that "Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder."
"As of now, he added, "we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible, from the highest ranked to the lowest, and to bring them to justice."
The Turkish president described Khashoggi's death as a "murder" 15 times in his speech. But he never mentioned Mohammed bin Salman in his speech and did not play an audio of the killing that news accounts have cited.
Erdogan gave new details surrounding the killing that involved 15 Saudi agents who started arriving in Turkey the day before Khashoggi was killed, October 2, while largely confirming earlier news accounts of Khashoggi's disappearance, including that Saudi agents deployed a body double with Khashoggi's clothes, glasses, and beard to walk out of the consulate to make it appear he had left the diplomatic outpost alive.
The Turkish president said on the day before the 59-year-old Khashoggi was killed, a team of Saudi consular staff scouted out two separate locations in a forest outside Istanbul and at Yalova, 90 kilometers south of the city.
Turkish authorities have searched the locations, theorizing that Khashoggi's remains may have been disposed of there, but have not found his body.
Erdogan also said Saudi agents removed the hard drive from the consulate's surveillance system.
Saudi officials at first said Khashoggi walked out of the consulate and that they did not know his whereabouts. Then they said he died in a fistfight in the consulate. Most recently, the Saudis said Khashoggi was killed in a chokehold when he tried to leave the consulate to call for help.
"When the murder is so clear," Erdogan said, "why were so many inconsistent statements made? Why is the body of a person who has officially been accepted as killed still not around?"
Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get documents he needed to marry his fiancee, Turkish national Hatice Cengiz, who waited outside in vain for his return.
The Turkish leader stressed the need for his police and intelligence services to conduct a thorough probe, both to avoid falsely accusing anyone and to fulfill a responsibility to the international community.
Since Saudi accounts say a "local collaborator" disposed of Khashoggi's remains, Erdogan said, "I am now asking: Who is this local collaborator?"
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel is in Turkey conferring with Turkish officials about their ongoing investigation. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he is "not satisfied" with Saudi explanations about the killing but hopes the Saudi royal family did not order it. Trump said he expects soon to know more information.
"I have a great group of people in Turkey right now, and a great group of people in Saudi Arabia. We will know very soon," Trump said.
Trump has said there would be consequences if Saudi Arabia was found to be responsible for Khashoggi's death, but also made it clear he has no intention of doing anything that would affect lucrative U.S. arms deals with Riyadh.
"I don’t want to lose all of that investment that's being made in our country," he said Monday.
In Riyadh, Saudi King Salman and his son, the crown prince, met with Khashoggi's family, the state news agency reported. The family group included Khashoggi's son, Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi.