Saudi Ara­bia re­jects ‘base­less’ mur­der claims about miss­ing jour­nal­ist

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A del­e­ga­tion of 11 Saudi of­fi­cials was in Turkey yes­ter­day for talks on the dis­ap­pear­ance of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi af­ter Riyadh slammed as “base­less lies” Turk­ish ac­cu­sa­tions that he was killed in­side its Is­tan­bul con­sulate 12 days ago.

Saudi Ara­bia in­sists Khashoggi, who en­tered the con­sulate to get pa­per­work for his mar­riage to his Turk­ish fi­ancee, left the build­ing safely.

The claims about his dis­ap­pear­ance threaten to harm Turk­ish-Saudi re­la­tions, alarm the king­dom’s sup­port­ers in the West and hurt the re­form drive led by Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

Top names from busi­ness and me­dia have can­celled plans to at­tend a ma­jor con­fer­ence in Riyadh this month to high­light the re­forms.

The Saudi del­e­ga­tion was in Turkey to have talks this week­end in Ankara and take part in a work­ing group an­nounced by Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s spokesman to look into the dis­ap­pear­ance, of­fi­cial Turk­ish me­dia re­ported.

The team on Fri­day in­spected the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul. The com­po­si­tion of the del­e­ga­tion has not been made clear.

Riyadh wel­comed the Turk­ish-Saudi work­ing group but In­te­rior Min­is­ter Prince Ab­du­laziz bin Saud blasted the claims that Khashoggi was killed in­side the con­sulate.

Prince Ab­du­laziz said the ac­cu­sa­tions were “base­less al­le­ga­tions and lies”.

Ankara has so far trod­den care­fully in the con­tro­versy, with Mr Er­do­gan so far stop­ping short of di­rectly ac­cus­ing Riyadh of wrong­do­ing.

Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia have an un­easy re­la­tion­ship.

An­a­lysts say that Turkey is hop­ing to find sup­port from its Nato ally the US in the case, al­though the two have been in cri­sis over the de­ten­tion of a Protes­tant pas­tor for the past two years.

But the pas­tor, An­drew Brun­son, was freed on Fri­day and al­lowed to fly home by a Turk­ish court, in a move that could help to nor­malise ties.

Mean­while Prince Mo­hammed’s Fu­ture In­vest­ment Ini­tia­tive, called the “Davos in the Desert”, has had can­cel­la­tions over the con­tro­versy.

Busi­ness fig­ures such as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of ride-hail­ing app Uber, into which Saudi’s in­vest­ment fund in­jected money, are no longer show­ing up. Me­dia groups in­clud­ing The New York Times, Fi­nan­cial Times and Bloomberg have pulled their spon­sor­ship from the event.

US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said yes­ter­day that he still planned to at­tend, as did IMF man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Chris­tine La­garde.


Saudi Ara­bia in­sists jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi ‘left its con­sulate build­ing in Turkey safely’

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