ISTANBUL — Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that authorities will search the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last week.
A statement from Turkish spokesman Hami Aksoy said Saudi authorities were “open to cooperation” and had stated their willingness to cooperate and would allow an examination of the consulate’s grounds. It was not clear when the search would take place.
Khashoggi, a Saudi writer and critic of the kingdom’s leadership, was last seen entering the consulate in Istanbul’s Levent district on Oct. 2, when he arrived to retrieve an administrative document. The Washington Post published Monday a still from a closed circuit television camera that a person close to the investigation said showed Khashoggi’s last known seconds, as he stepped inside the consulate door.
Turkish investigators believe that Khashoggi, 59, was killed shortly after he entered and his body was later removed from the premises, a U.S. official and sources close to the investigation said. Saudi officials have called the accusations “baseless.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Monday that Saudi Arabia prove that journalist Khashoggi left the consulate on his own, as Saudi officials have repeatedly asserted, after he disappeared last week while inside the mission.
Erdogan’s comments were his most direct suggestion yet about potential Saudi culpability in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“Do you not have cameras and everything of the sort?” Erdogan said of the consular officials at a news conference in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. “They have all of them. Then why do you not prove this? You need to prove it.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry had also summoned the Saudi ambassador to urge “full cooperation” in the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, the official Anadolu news agency said Monday.
Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi, 59, a critic of the Saudi leadership and a contributor to The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, was killed by a team of 15 Saudis flown in specifically to carry out the attack.
In his first remarks about the disappearance, President Trump told reporters Monday afternoon that he was concerned. “I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now, nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it,” Trump said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his own statement said that “we have seen conflicting reports on the safety and whereabouts” of Khashoggi. Repeating Trump’s expression of “concern,” Pompeo, who had just returned from a trip to Asia, called on the Saudi government “to support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation.”
Members of Congress, where there has long been bipartisan skepticism about Saudi Arabia, have issued statements and tweets demanding answers from Riyadh. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in a string of tweets Monday that “if there is any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the US-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid — economically and otherwise.”
Graham, who played golf Sunday with Trump at the president’s course in Sterling, Va., said that he had consulted with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) over their “shared concerns regarding the whereabouts and treatment” of Khashoggi.
In a statement sent to journalists Monday, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, said that reports the kingdom had detained or killed Khashoggi were “absolutely false and baseless . . . I don’t know who is behind these claims, or their intentions,” he said, “nor do I care frankly.”
“What we do care about is Jamal’s well-being and revealing the truth about what occurred,” the ambassador said. “Jamal has many friends in the Kingdom, including myself, and despite our differences, and his choice to go into his so called ‘self-exile,’ we still maintained regular contact when he was in Washington.”
The Saudi government, he said, was “fully cooperating” in the Turkish government’s investigation. “Jamal is a Saudi citizen whose safety and security is a top priority for the Kingdom.”
In a meeting Sunday night with The Post’s publisher, Fred Ryan, the ambassador said it was “impossible” that such a crime could be covered up by consulate employees “and we wouldn’t know about it.”
Khalid told Ryan that Khashoggi, who was once close to the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, had “always been honest” and that his criticism of the current Saudi leadership “has been sincere.”
During the meeting, Ryan expressed The Post’s “grave concern” about Khashoggi’s disappearance, and said the news organization would view any Saudi government involvement in his disappearance as a flagrant attack on one of its journalists.