ISTANBUL • US President Donald Trump, in his toughest comments yet, said Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Mr Jamal Khashoggi's killing, piling pressure on his ally amid a global outcry over the Saudi journalist's death.
The Wall Street Journal published Mr Trump's remarks hours before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's appearance at a business conference, where he said that the killing of Mr Khashoggi on Oct 2 was "painful", and that "justice will prevail".
Prince Mohammed added that all the culprits will be punished, and that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will work together "to reach results".
Mr Trump told the Journal he wanted to believe the Crown Prince when he said that lower-level officials were to blame for the killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
But he suggested that the responsibility lies higher up, adding: "Well, the Prince is running things over there, more so at this stage.
"He is running things, and so if anybody were going to be in it, (it) would be him."
The death of Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and United States resident, has threatened relations between Riyadh and Washington, as well as other Western nations.
Saudi Arabia has given conflicting accounts about the killing, first denying his death and later saying he died inside the consulate after a fight. It has blamed a "rogue operation" for the death of the journalist, a critic of the Crown Prince, and said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the killing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara was determined not to allow any cover-up, a day after calling for those responsible for the killing to face justice.
"We are unravelling, dismantling (the case), and the world is closely following," he said.
One of his advisers yesterday said Prince Mohammed had "blood on his hands" over the killing.
"It is a disgrace that reaches all the way to Crown Prince Salman. At least five members of the execution team are Salman's right hands and are people that wouldn't act without his knowledge," Mr Ilnur Cevik wrote in the Yeni Birlik newspaper.
Turkish security sources say that when Mr Khashoggi entered the consulate, he was seized by 15 Saudi intelligence operatives who had flown in on two jets just hours before.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to conduct a joint investigation into the killing with Turkey, with its consulate in Istanbul searched days after the journalist's death. As part of that probe, Turkish police in Istanbul have been granted permission to search a well in the garden of the Saudi consul-general's residence.
Saudi Arabia has detained 18 people and dismissed five officials as part of the probe.
The location of Mr Khashoggi's body remains unknown.
The US and Britain have vowed to revoke the visas of some of those believed to be behind the attack, while France said yesterday that it would take "punitive measures" if Riyadh was proven to be behind the murder.
Separately, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia, said Riyadh would not have murdered Mr Khashoggi without US protection, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE