Pompeo meets Erdogan over missing writer

Turkey (HRNW): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held talks with the Turkish President in Ankara about the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The meeting comes amid fresh allegations in the Turkish media that Mr Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. On Tuesday, Mr Pompeo met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. He said Saudi Arabia’s leaders “strongly denied” involvement in the writer’s disappearance. The journalist, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was last seen alive entering the consulate on 2 October. Saudi Arabia has said he left the building unharmed. A pro-government Turkish newspaper has reported gruesome details alleging the writer was tortured and killed while inside the consulate. TThe New York Times reports that four of the 15 people named by the Turkish authorities as suspects in Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance have links to the powerful crown prince, while another is a senior figure in the country’s Interior Ministry.

But US President Donald Trump has cautioned against rushing to blame Saudi Arabia over the case, telling the AP news agency that Riyadh was being treated as “guilty until proven innocent”. The case has put Saudi Arabia under pressure from close allies. On Tuesday, G7 foreign ministers called for Saudi Arabia to conduct a “transparent” probe into the issue. Meanwhile, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has become the latest high-profile figure to withdraw from a major Saudi investment conference next week following Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance. A search was due to be conducted on Tuesday of the consul’s residence, some 200 metres away from the consulate. But that has now been delayed because no Saudi official can be present for what has been billed as a joint investigation, Turkish officials say. The consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, left Turkey on a commercial flight bound for Saudi Arabia earlier in the day.

On the day of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance, several vehicles with Saudi diplomatic number plates were seen on video footage moving from the consulate to the residence. Meanwhile, Turkish investigators quoted by two news agencies say Monday’s search of the consulate itself has yielded more evidence that Mr Khashoggi was killed there. A Turkish official is quoted by Reuters as saying “strong evidence” was found but no conclusive proof. Turkish security sources have long made clear they have audio evidence pointing to his murder. The search of the consulate continued into the early hours of Tuesday. Samples, including soil from the garden and a metal gate, were reportedly taken. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters the investigation “was looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over”.

The New York Times and CNN, quoting unnamed sources, reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia would acknowledge that Mr Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong. Mr Khashoggi, who has written for the Washington Post and is a US resident, arrived at the consulate at 13:14 local time on 2 October to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Reports suggest an assault and struggle took place in the building. Turkish sources allege he was killed by a 15-strong team of Saudi agents pictured entering and leaving Turkey on CCTV footage released to media outlets. There are allegations in Turkish media that his body was dismembered in the building. Mr Khashoggi was once an adviser to the Saudi royal family but fell out of favour with the country’s rulers and went into self-imposed exile.

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