Explanation expected on missing journalist from Saudi Arabia as Mike Pompeo arrives

Frederick Owens
October 19, 2018

Turkish authorities have an audio recording indicating that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, a Turkish official and a security source have told Reuters, and have shared evidence with countries including Saudi Arabia and the United States.

A Saudi delegation had entered the consulate one hour before the Turkish police arrived and appeared still to be inside as the search was conducted. Leaked surveillance video shows diplomatic cars traveled to the consul general's home shortly after Khashoggi went into the consulate. He said USA officials want to review any audio and video from Turkey relating to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and US resident.

"His denials to me could not have been stronger", Trump said at the White House.

Pompeo will meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss bilateral and regional issues including Syria, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, without referring to the disappearance of Khashoggi.

UK, Germany, France had in equivocal terms expressed sadness as regards Jamal Khashoggi "vanishing" from the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Trump despatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for what the State Department described as "face to face meetings with the Saudi leadership" to find out what happened.

"The Secretary reiterated the President's concern with respect to Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, as well as the President's desire to determine what happened", she said.

What evidence Turkish officials could gather at the consulate remained unknown. The Washington Post journalist has been missing since October 2 when he was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Pompeo met King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir, and was expected to meet the crown prince later Monday. "We didn't dig the garden but searched it with dogs and took some samples".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he told Saudi Arabia's rulers that the USA takes "very seriously" the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and will await the outcome of investigations by the kingdom and Turkey before deciding how the US will respond.

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The Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia would be forming a joint working group to look into the disappearance of Khashoggi.

Khashoggi has written extensively for the Washington Post about Saudi Arabia, criticising its war in Yemen, the recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a driving ban for women.

Meanwhile, the Saudi consul-general Mohammad al-Otaibi left Istanbul for Riyadh on a scheduled flight, as Turkish investigators were poised to search his residence.

Until now, Riyadh has not allowed Turkish investigators to search the consulate - officially Saudi territory - with reports both sides were at odds over the conditions.

"Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it".

But the USA president also said "rogue killers" could be behind the disappearance and that King Salman had told him Saudi Arabia is "working closely with Turkey to find answers".

"I don't want to get into his mind - but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers", the president said.

Turkish officials have told MEE that three of the 15-man hit squad allegedly sent by Riyadh to Istanbul for the operation came from MBS's personal bodyguard.

"We also had the chance to talk about lots of other elements of the relationship between our two countries", Pompeo told reporters.

Riyadh on Sunday vowed to hit back against any punitive measures while Trump has also made clear he is reluctant to curb all-important arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He went on to write articles critical of the royal family, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular.

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