Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called on Riyadh to prove its claim that the prominent newspaper editor and a strong critic of Saudi Arabia Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi has been missing since last Tuesday after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Turkey to get his paperwork done to marry his Turkish fiancée.
The disappearance of Khashoggi, an adviser to former Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal, has sparked global concern, particularly after sources in Turkey said that authorities believed that he was killed inside the Consulate.
Fearing retribution for his criticism of Saudi policy in the Yemen war and its crackdown on dissents, Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia last year. Saudi officials have said that he left shortly afterwards but his fiancé, who was waiting outside, said he never appeared.
Mr Erdogan, who is on an official visit to Budapest, told in a news conference, “We have to get an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible. The consulate officials cannot save themselves by simply saying ‘he has left’”. Mr Erdogan said he was personally following the case, added that Turkey had no documents or evidence regarding the case.
Consulate denies Khashoggi’s abduction
A Saudi source at the Consulate has denied that Khashoggi had been killed at the diplomatic mission. The Consulate said that the accusations were baseless. The consulate has also denied that Khashoggi was abducted.
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U.S. President Donald Trump, in the first expression of concern on Khashoggi’s disappearance, said he was troubled by reports about the journalist’s fate.
“I am concerned about it. I don’t like hearing about it. And hopefully, that will sort itself out. Right now nobody knows anything about it, but there are some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it,” he told reporters at the White House.
However, Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, echoed Consulate comments in a statement, adding that his country has sent a security team, with Turkey’s approval, to assist in the investigation.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged the conflicting reports about the safety and whereabouts of Khashoggi. He said, “We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation”. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Tweet, “Violence against journalists across the globe is a threat to freedom of the press & human rights. The free world deserves answers”.
Khashoggi is a well-known face on political talk shows on Arab news channels. His disappearance is most likely to further deepen the already strained relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey and Saudi Arabia strained their relations after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar in a show of support when 7 member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha.
Turkey asks to search
Turkey has asked for permission to search Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. The request was made after the Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi Ambassador for the second time over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, NTV broadcaster said.
Earlier, Mr Erdogan told reporters that authorities were examining camera footage and airport records as part of their investigation. In an effort to show that Khashoggi was not on the premises, Saudi Arabia’s consul in Istanbul opened his mission to Reuters on Saturday.
In his first comments over the disappearance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he was awaiting the results of an investigation.
“We hope to have results very quickly,” Erdogan said. “I am waiting, with high hopes.”