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Saudi crown prince visits Turkey as countries normalize ties

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled to arrive in Ankara on Wednesday, making his first visit to Turkey following the slaying of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

As Saudi Arabia and Turkey press ahead with efforts to repair ties that were strained by Khashoggi’s killing, the crown prince will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last leg of a Middle East tour that also took him to Egypt and Jordan.

Erdogan said talks with Prince Mohammed, who is commonly referred to by his initials MBS, would focus on advancing Turkish-Saudi relations to a “much higher degree.” Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April, paying his first visit to the kingdom since 2017, a year before the gruesome killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

As relations with Turkey frayed, Saudi Arabia launched an unofficial embargo on Turkish exports, dramatically curbing around $5 billion in bilateral trade. The kingdom also temporarily barred wildly popular Turkish soap operas.

Efforts by the regional heavyweights to improve their ties come as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and is trying to draw investments from wealthy Gulf Arab states. Turkey has also taken steps to improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.

Talks with the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan late last year led to investment deals worth $10 billion after years of regional rivalry.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, has been trying to broaden its alliances at a time of strained relations between Riyadh and Washington. The crown prince also seeks to put an end to the scandal over Khashoggi’s killing that damaged his reputation.

Prince Mohammed’s Middle East trip comes before U.S. President Joe Biden’s scheduled trip to the region next month. Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia at the tail end of a July 13-16 trip that includes stops in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Ayham Kamel, head of the Euroasia Group’s Middle East research team, said the prince’s regional trip this week is “designed to cement Riyadh’s regional role and expand reconciliation efforts” ahead of Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

He said it could also serve to mediate between Egypt and Turkey, which are working toward reconciliation after their relations broke down over Turkey’s strong opposition to the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

“Bilateral trade is likely to increase, and there is a good chance that Saudi tourism flows to Turkey will resume,” Kamel wrote. “Talks could also involve military/defense cooperation or arms procurement, as the Saudis are interested in exploring diversifying their suppliers.”

The killing of Khashoggi sparked global outrage and put pressure on Prince Mohammed, who was said to have approved the operation to kill or capture the journalist, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment. The prince has denied any knowledge of the operation that was carried out by agents who worked directly for him.

While never naming the crown prince, Erdogan said the operation that killed Khashoggi was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.

Khashoggi entered the consulate in October 2018 by appointment to obtain papers to allow him to wed his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who waited for him outside. He never emerged and his body was never found.

Cengiz said she welcomed the improvement in Saudi and Turkish relations but opposed Prince Mohammed getting welcomed to Ankara before Khashoggi’s killers were brought to justice.

“As someone who has been wronged, I find it very heartbreaking,” Cengiz told The Associated Press in a written response to questions. “I object to this. Jamal’s body is still missing. I am devastated that this has gone unanswered and that those who killed him remain unpunished.”

Turkey opened a trial in absentia against 26 Saudis suspected in Khashoggi’s killing, but the court earlier this year ruled to halt the proceedings and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, paving the way for the countries’ rapprochement.

“An apology should have been made both to my country and to me,” Cengiz said.

She also was critical of Biden’s plans to visit Saudi Arabia.

“Forgetting all the promises he made, he is now taking steps for his own country’s interests. He is violating the values that he believes in,” Cengiz said. “With this visit, he is making the whole world question his sincerity.”

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Wieting reported from Istanbul.

Suzan Fraser And Ayse Wieting, The Associated Press

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International

Canadian swimmer says she was drugged at world championships

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Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey says she was drugged on the final day of the world aquatics championships and suffered a rib sprain and a concussion.

Harvey said in an Instagram post that there is a four-to-six hour window where she has no recollection of what happened, and that she remembers waking up with the Canadian team manager and doctor by her bedside.

She also posted photos of bruises on her body.

Montreal’s Harvey competed in the women’s 200-metre individual medley at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, finishing eighth. She also earned a bronze medal in the women 4×200-metre freestyle relay after swimming in the preliminaries.

“We are aware there was an incident the night before departure from Budapest,” Swimming Canada spokesman Nathan White said in an email to The Canadian Press. “As soon as team staff became aware, Mary received excellent medical treatment from our team physician on site, and was cleared to travel home.

“Staff have been in contact with Mary since her return and we are offering her support. We continue to gather information on the situation, and the file has been forwarded to our independent Safe Sport officer.”

Harvey said she debated on whether to write her post, but said “these situations sadly happen too many times for me to stay silent.”

“I’m still scared to think about the unknowns of that night,” she wrote. “I’m still in a way, ashamed of what happened, and I think I always will be. … But I won’t let this event define me.”

The 22-year-old Harvey competed for Canada in last year’s Tokyo Olympics. She’s scheduled to swim in this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2022.

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Crime

New report details missed chances to stop Uvalde shooting

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A police officer armed with a rifle watched the gunman in the Uvalde elementary school massacre walk toward the campus but did not fire while waiting for permission from a supervisor to shoot, according to a sweeping critique released Wednesday on the tactical response to the May tragedy.

Some of the 21 victims at Robb Elementary School, including 19 children, possibly “could have been saved” on May 24 had they received medical attention sooner while police waited more than an hour before breaching the fourth-grade classroom, a review by a training center at Texas State University for active shooter situations found.

The report is yet another damning assessment of how police failed to act on opportunities that might have saved lives in what became the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“A reasonable officer would have considered this an active situation and devised a plan to address the suspect,” read the report published by the university’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program.

Authors of the 26-page report said their findings were based off video taken from the school, police body cameras, testimony from officers on the scene and statements from investigators. Among their findings:

— It appeared that no officer waiting in the hallway during the shooting ever tested to see if the door to the classroom was locked. The head of Texas’ state police agency has also faulted officers on the scene for not checking the doors.

— The officers had “weapons (including rifles), body armor (which may or may not have been rated to stop rifle rounds), training, and backup. The victims in the classrooms had none of these things.”

— When officers finally entered the classroom at 12:50 p.m. — more than an hour after the shooting began — they were no better equipped to confront the gunman than they had been up to that point.

—”Effective incident command” never appears to have been established among the multiple law enforcement agencies that responded to the shooting.

The gunman, an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, entered the building at 11:33 a.m. Before that a Uvalde police officer, who the report did not identify, saw the gunman carrying a rife toward the west hall entrance. The officer asked a supervisor for permission to open fire, but the supervisor “either did not hear or responded too late,” the report said.

When the officer turned back toward the gunman, he already gone inside “unabated,” according to the report.

The report is one of multiple fact-finding reviews launched in the aftermath of the worst school shooting in Texas history. A committee formed by Texas legislators has also interviewed more than 20 people, including officers who were on the scene, behind closed doors for several weeks. It is unclear when they will release their findings.

It follows testimony last month in which Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the state Senate that the police response was an “abject failure.” He pinned particular blame on Chief Pete Arredondo, saying that as on-scene commander the Uvalde schools police chief made “terrible decisions” and stopped officers from confronting the gunman earlier.

Arredondo has tried to defend his actions, telling the Texas Tribune that he didn’t consider himself the commander in charge of operations and that he assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He said he didn’t have his police and campus radios but that he used his cellphone to call for tactical gear, a sniper and the classroom keys.

According to he report released Wednesday, Arredondo and another Uvalde police officer spent 13 minutes in the school hallway during the shooting discussing tactical options, whether to use snipers and how to get into the classroom windows.

“They also discussed who has the keys, testing keys, the probability of the door being locked, and if kids and teachers are dying or dead,” the report read.

McCraw said police had enough officers and firepower on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it.

A lawyer for Arredondo and a spokeswoman for the Uvalde city police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Arredondo is on leave from his job with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and resigned from his position as a city councilor last week.

Public leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, initially praised the police response in Uvalde. Abbott said officers reacted quickly and ran toward the gunfire with “amazing courage” to take out the killer, thereby saving lives. He later said he was misled. In the days and weeks after the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts of what happened. The fallout has driven recriminations and rifts between local at state authorities. On Tuesday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez released a letter asking Abbott to move administration of a victims relief fund from the local prosecutor’s office to the Texas Department of Emergency Management. They wrote that they’ve received numerous complaints about District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, “including the failure to timely deliver victim’s compensation resources to those in need.″

Busbee’s office declined to comment Wednesday.

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

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Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

Paul J. Weber And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press

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