US cautious over Khashoggi as Pompeo visits Turkey

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (far left) with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their meeting in Ankara yesterday. The top diplomat arrived in Ankara after Riyadh, where he met King Salman and later, his son Prince Mohammed.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their meeting in Ankara yesterday. The top diplomat arrived in Ankara after Riyadh, where he met King Salman and later, his son Prince Mohammed.PHOTO: US DEPARTMENT OF STATE

ANKARA • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday refused to blame key American ally Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi even as Riyadh faced new claims that he was killed and tortured inside its Istanbul consulate.

After talks with the Saudi leadership in Riyadh marked by expressions of mutual goodwill, Mr Pompeo in Ankara met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government also remains wary of giving public details about Mr Khashoggi's fate.

Pro-government Turkish media published gruesome new allegations that Mr Khashoggi was killed by being gradually dismembered by a Saudi assassination squad, some of whom the New York Times said were tied to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But Mr Pompeo declared that he did not want "to talk about any of the facts", while President Donald Trump said innocence must be presumed, drawing a parallel with his US Supreme Court judge nominee who faced sexual assault accusations.

The controversy has blown a massive hole in attempts by Prince Mohammed to promote himself as a modern reformer and led to a spate of cancellations from a major Riyadh investment conference scheduled next week.

Mr Khashoggi, a former regime insider who became critical of Prince Mohammed, has not been seen since he stepped inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2 to sort out marriage paperwork.

Mr Pompeo arrived in Ankara after Riyadh, where he held a 20-minute talk with King Salman and then a brief meeting and much lengthier dinner with his son Prince Mohammed. The top US diplomat said that in Saudi Arabia, he stressed the "importance of them conducting a complete investigation into the disappearance" and Riyadh had vowed to do this.

 

"They made a commitment that they would show the entire world the results of their investigation," said Mr Pompeo, adding that Saudi Arabia also vowed that no one would have immunity.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared more wary of the Saudi pledges. After his meeting with Mr Pompeo, he took aim at the Saudi "approach" to the investigation in general, pointing to a "mocking" attitude when the consul general opened cupboards in front of a team from Reuters news agency "as if to say, 'See, he isn't here'."

"Acting disrespectfully is not the correct approach," Mr Cavusoglu said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2018, with the headline 'US cautious over Khashoggi as Pompeo visits Turkey'. Print Edition | Subscribe