Pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia over missing journalist
Turkey says it has proof writer was killed in Istanbul consulate
Saudi Arabia is facing increasing international pressure to clarify what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and dissident writer who disappeared after visiting its consulate in Istanbul.
Turkey’s government has told US officials it has audio and video proof that Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
In a report yesterday the newspaper cited anonymous officials as saying the recordings show a Saudi security team detained the writer when he went to the consulate on 2 October to pick up a document for his upcoming wedding.
Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in the abduction or harm of Khashoggi and called the accusation “base- less.” However, it has offered no evidence to support its claim he left the consulate and vanished despite his fiance waiting outside.
Anadolu news Agency said a delegation would hold talks with Turkish officials over the weekend. It did not provide further details.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey and Saudi Arabia would form a “joint working group” to look into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The 59-year-old journalist, who was considered close to the Saudi royal family, was a critic of the current government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old heir apparent who has introduced reforms but shown little tolerance for criticism.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK has said he is “concerned” about the prominent journalist. Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al Saud declined to comment any further on Mr Khashoggi, whose disappearance last week has prompted fears he has been murdered. Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year.
As a contributor to the Washington Post, he has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.
Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince, who has also presided over a roundup of activists and busimr nessmen. Turkish authorities claim Mr Khashoggi was killed by members of an elite Saudi “assassination squad.”
But if Saudi Arabia is found to be complicit in his disappearance or death, the warm Us-saudi relationship – and even hopes for Middle East peace – could be upended.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and US president Donald Trump are among the political figures who have demanded answers from Saudi Arabia over the case.
Hunt said that if reports of Mr Khashoggi’s death proved correct, the UK would regard the situation as “serious”, adding: “Friendships depend on shared values.”
Concerns were mounting in Congress over Saudi Arabia’s policies and the crown prince’s aggressive steps to silence his critics. There are calls on Capitol Hill for the US to halt arms sales to the kingdom.
British billionaire Richard Branson yesterday suspended business links with Saudi Arabia, and Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said he might not attend a major investment conference in the country this month amid reports that Jamal Khashoggi may have been killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s capital.
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, said the newspaper was pulling it’s partnership with Future Investment Initiative economic conference in Riyadh while the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi remains unexplained.
A security officer looks out from the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, which Jamal Khashoggi visited on 2 October
A diplomatic vehicle leaves the Saudi consulate yesterday