TEHRAN (Press Shia) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the king and crown prince.
Overnight, Turkish crime scene investigators entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the last place Khashoggi was seen before vanishing on Oct. 2, for the first time and searched the premises for over nine hours.
During the search, CNN and the New York Times reported Saudi Arabia was preparing to acknowledge Khashoggi’s death in a botched interrogation, after denying for two weeks any role in his disappearance.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and ambassador to Washington, Prince Khaled bin Salman, greeted Pompeo at the airport. He will meet King Salman and Jubeir before dinner with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to reporters traveling with him. He may go on to Turkey, Reuters reported.
Khashoggi, a US resident, Washington Post columnist and leading critic of Prince Mohammed, vanished after entering the consulate to get marriage documents. Turkish officials say they believe he was murdered there and his body removed.
Turkish authorities have an audio recording indicating that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, a Turkish official and a security source said, and have shared evidence with countries including Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Some 10 Turkish investigators left the consulate before 5 am (0200 GMT), and a Turkish prosecutor departed around 1-1/2 hours later, followed shortly after by a Saudi team, witnesses said.
Forensic vehicles took away soil samples as well as a metal door from the garden, a witness said. A police dog was part of the search team.
“The Turkish crime scene investigators carried out searches in the consulate and took the things deemed necessary,” a senior Turkish official said, after earlier acknowledging the difficulty of collecting evidence 13 days after the incident.
US President Donald Trump has threatened “severe punishment” if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, but ruled out canceling arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars. European allies have urged accountability for those responsible.
Many members of the US Congress, which has long had a testy relationship with Saudi Arabia, have issued strong criticism of the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has said it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions “with greater action”.