Missing journalist: Ankara expects Riyadh's cooperation

Tuesday, 09 Oct, 2018

A Turkish government source told AFP over the weekend that police believe the journalist "was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day".

Police said earlier that about 15 Saudis arrived in Istanbul on two flights last Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a 59-year-old veteran journalist who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since Prince Mohammed's rise to power, disappeared October 2 while on a visit to the consulate to get paperwork done to be married to his Turkish fiancée. He has not been heard of since.

The dispute over Khashoggi's disappearance also threatens to reopen rifts between Ankara and Riyadh.

Local media said Ankara requested permission for Turkish investigators to search the consulate building, but a Foreign Ministry official would not confirm the report.

The Turkish source said Turkish officials were trying to identify them.

Multiple media reports say that the group of 15 Saudis descended on the consulate Tuesday and later left.

"His disappearance could exacerbate tense relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which worsened a year ago after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Gulf States" isolation of Qatar "inhumane and against Islamic values.' In the spring, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described Turkey as one part of a 'triangle of evil' with Iran and Islamic extremists". Erdogan said of the consular officials. Following bin Laden's rise likely helped cement Khashoggi's ties with powerful former Saudi spy chief, Turki Al-Faisal. UK, US, French and other Western companies sell Saudi Arabia arms and buy their oil.

Saudi officials say he left shortly afterwards but his fiancée, who was waiting outside, said he never came out.

The Saudi journalist was at the consulate in order to obtain documents that certified his divorce.

Turkish authorities have asked to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul for a missing Saudi journalist who is believed to have been killed inside the building.

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may not have been a household name, but his disappearance or presumed murder will be a permanent stain on his government's assertions that it's promoting social and economic reforms.

In his initial comments on Sunday, Erdogan struck a cautious tone with regards to the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi's disappearence. Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar a year ago in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha.

WikiLeaks has hit out at United Kingdom newspapers which have been curiously circumspect about the alleged murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last week.

Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, said he first went to the consulate at September 28 to obtain a document related to their upcoming wedding and he returned Tuesday with concern he wouldn't be allowed to leave.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Saudis need to provide evidence to support their claim that he left the consulate.

Saudi Arabia launched a modernisation campaign following Prince Mohammed's appointment as heir to the throne with moves such as lifting a ban on women driving. But speaking to reporters afterward, Erdogan said he was awaiting a prosecutor's investigation about what had happened to Khashoggi. Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar previous year in a show of support after its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha. "To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison".

The Saudi Crown Prince refuted the claims later in an interview during which he said Turkey can search the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul for the Saudi journalist, saying: "We have nothing to hide".

"It anguishes me to speak with other Saudi friends in Istanbul and London who are also in self-exile".