Turkey wants to search Saudi consulate for journalist feared dead

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, 59, went missing last week after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, 59, went missing last week after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.PHOTO: REUTERS

ANKARA • Turkey has asked for permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing last week after he entered the mission, broadcaster NTV reported yesterday.

Turkish officials told Reuters at the weekend that they believed Mr Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was following the case closely .

A Turkish official also said that Saudi Arabia's envoy to Ankara had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry for a second time on Sunday. "It has been conveyed to him that we expect full coordination in the investigation process," the ministry said.

Mr Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate last Tuesday to get documents for his forthcoming marriage. Saudi officials say that he left shortly afterwards but his fiancee, who was waiting outside, said he never came out.

Two Turkish sources told Reuters that the Turkish authorities believe Mr Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, a view echoed by one of Mr Erdogan's advisers, Mr Yasin Aktay, who is also a friend of the Saudi journalist.

Mr Erdogan told reporters on Sunday that the authorities were examining camera footage and airport records as part of their investigation into the disappearance last week of Mr Khashoggi, who had been increasingly critical of Saudi Arabia's rulers.

Mr Erdogan on Sunday called the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi "very, very upsetting", but stopped short of confirming reports that Mr Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate.

 
 
 

"I am following this issue, pursuing it, and whatever the result, we will be the ones to tell the world," he told reporters.

A US official confirmed Turkey's government had determined that Mr Khashoggi was probably killed inside the consulate by a team that arrived on two private jets. Turkish officials further concluded that his body was probably dismembered, removed in boxes and flown out of the country, the official said.

Saudi Arabia has denied the accusations, calling them "baseless", and said Mr Khashoggi, 59, left the consulate soon after he arrived.

The suspected murder of Mr Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post's Global Opinions section, could increase tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two regional powers whose rivalry has played out across the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is weary of Turkey's expanding military power in the Persian Gulf, its support for political Islamists and its cooperation in the Syrian war with Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch rival.

Turkey was alarmed by the Saudi leadership's support for a military coup against then Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Mursi in 2013.

The United States should "demand answers, loud and clear" from Saudi Arabia about Mr Khashoggi's disappearance and alleged killing, and punish the kingdom if cooperation is lacking, The Washington Post said in a commentary on Sunday.

"President Donald Trump has treated the Saudi Crown Prince as a favoured ally, and his administration sidestepped criticism of the regime's abuses... If the Crown Prince does not respond with full cooperation, Congress must, as a first step, suspend all military cooperation with the kingdom," said The Washington Post.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2018, with the headline 'Turkey wants to search Saudi consulate for journalist feared dead'. Print Edition | Subscribe