Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has called the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi "heinous" and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, in his first public address since the death.
The heir-apparent spoke at the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh to a packed auditorium, which had waited patiently to hear whether he would comment on one of the kingdom's worst scandals in recent history.
Prince Mohammed called the death of the Washington Post columnist “painful for both the Saudi people and the world”, but claimed it was being exploited by some to drive a wedge between Saudi and Turkey.
“I want to send them a message: They will not be able to do that as long as there is a king called King Salman bin Abdulaziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, and a president in Turkey called Erdogan,” said the prince, who was part of a panel discussing economic reforms in the region.
He said the two countries would work together to bring the perpetrators to court, without addressing accusations he was personally involved in the killing of one of his most prominent critics.
To add to the oddity of the event, Prince Mohammed appeared on stage alongside Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, whom he is accused of kidnapping and forcing to resign live on air from Riyadh last year in an apparent disagreement over growing Iranian influence in Lebanon.
He joked that Mr Hariri would only be staying in the kingdom for two days this time.
The Saudis have tried to portray business as usual at the forum - viewed as the jewel in the crown prince's Vision 2030 plan for the country - although Khalid al-Falih, the country’s energy minister, acknowledged on Tuesday there was a growing "crisis".
Prince Mohammed claimed during his address that the country's growth would be much better in 2019 than this year, as kingdom begins to see through his plans to diversify away from oil.
Dozens of Western politicians, top world bankers and company executives boycotted this year's conference, nicknamed “Davos in the Desert”, in an attempt to distance themselves from the saga.
Saudi has tried to reassure foreign banks who chose to boycott the forum that they would not be penalised, in a message of reassurance.
But beyond the conference, the drip-drip of revelations in the case has tested ties between Saudi and its traditional western allies.
While US President Donald Trump has offered a degree of protection to the 33-year-old crown prince, it appeared today as though this would not be unconditional.
President Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published late on Tuesday that Prince Mohammed bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi's killing.
In his toughest comments yet, Mr Trump she he wanted to believe the prince when he said that lower level officials were to blame for the killing at the Saudi mission.
But he suggested responsibility lay higher up: "Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him."
An adviser to Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Prince Mohammed had "blood on his hands" over Khashoggi, the bluntest language yet from someone linked to Turkey's president.
Mr Erdogan himself kept up his pressure on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
"We are determined not to allow the murder to be covered up and for those responsible - from the person who gave the order to those who executed it - not to escape justice," he said.
On Wednesday, Saudi officials finally granted permission to Turkish police to search a well in the garden of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as part of their investigation.
The well was at centre of speculation yesterday that it may contain body parts belonging to the journalist.