Saudi Arabia rejects ‘baseless’ murder claims about missing journalist
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’