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Canada has heard Khashoggi killing tapes, PM Trudeau acknowledges

Pool via Reuters | Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrive at the official dinner at the Musée d’Orsay Museum, as part of the commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of WWI, in Paris, France,

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday became the first Western leader to acknowledge his country had heard recordings of the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

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"Canada has been fully briefed up on what Turkey had to share," Trudeau said from Paris, where he was attending the Peace Forum following the WWI Armistice centenary.

His comments come just days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had given recordings "to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them".

The Canadian leader is the first since that announcement to officially confirm that "yes" his country's intelligence had listened to the audio. He said Canada's intelligence agencies had been working "very closely" with Turkish intelligence on Khashoggi's killing.

The shared audio is the latest measure by Turkey to maintain international pressure on Saudi Arabia in its aim to stop a cover up of the October 2 killing.

Trudeau said that he himself had not heard the audio, and he wouldn't give any details on the contents of the tapes.

Trudeau also said he thanked Erdogan in person for "his strength in responding to the Khashoggi situation" when the two leaders met in Paris this weekend.

France, Turkey spar over tapes

France's account of the matter of the audio appeared to differ somewhat from Canada's.

Turkey reacted with fury on Monday after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Erdogan was playing a political game over sharing intelligence about Khashoggi’s killing.

Le Drian said he was not aware that France had any tapes. Asked if Erdogan was lying, he said: “He has a political game to play in these circumstances”.

That prompted a furious response from Ankara, which insisted it had shared evidence with Paris and said Le Drian’s comments were unacceptable.

“Our intelligence shared information with them on October 24, including the voice recordings,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “It is very impudent for them to accuse our president of playing political games.”

“What’s behind the remarks of the French foreign minister? I wonder if they are trying to cover up the murder,” he added.

The furious Turkish remarks towards France were the most direct public expression yet of a concern in Ankara that Western countries with close commercial relations with Riyadh might soft-pedal their response to the Khashoggi killing.

Seeking to clarify Le Drian’s comments, a senior French diplomat later said the minister never commented on intelligence shared between countries and that he was neither confirming nor denying that French officials had listened to recordings.

“What counts for us is to establish the complete truth ... whatever one may think of the recordings the entire truth can’t be based on the Turkish recordings. We are still waiting for elements from the Saudis,” the diplomat said.

The dispute between Ankara and Paris may hinge on Erdogan’s account that Turkey “gave” recordings to the other countries. Turkish officials said instead that France had been allowed to hear a recording, and blamed France for the misunderstanding.

“If there is miscommunication between the French government’s various agencies, it is up to the French authorities – not Turkey   to take care of that problem,” Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, who visited Turkey last month for information on the investigation, is reported to have heard the recordings, the existence of which was leaked to the media but never openly confirmed until Saturday.

'Horror and outrage'

Also Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in Saudi Arabia where he met King Salman and was expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Hunt - the first British minister to visit Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi was killed - said he would press the kingdom to fully cooperate with a Turkish investigation into the writer's killing.

"The international community remain united in horror and outrage at the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi one month ago. It is clearly unacceptable that the full circumstances behind his murder still remain unclear," Hunt said in a statement ahead of landing in Riyadh.

A statement by the state-run Saudi News Agency did not make any references to Khashoggi, saying only that King Salman and Hunt discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments in the region.

On Sunday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with the Saudi crown prince on the telephone and "emphasised that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same".

The crown prince is widely suspected of at least having knowledge of the killing, which involved some members of his security entourage. Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince who was living in self-imposed exile before his death.

Under mounting pressure, Saudi Arabia has changed its narrative about Khashoggi's killing, first saying that he walked out of the embassy the day he disappeared before eventually acknowledging Khashoggi died inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has also recently acknowledged Turkish evidence that showed the slaying was premeditated.

Turkey says a 15-member Saudi assassination squad strangled and dismembered Khashoggi at the consulate. Media reports have suggested that his body could have been chemically dissolved as it has not yet been found.

Saudi officials characterise the killing as a rogue operation carried out by Saudi agents who exceeded their authority.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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