RIYADH: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Saudi leaders Tuesday to move quickly with a “transparent” investigation of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, even as Turkish officials sifted through possible evidence at the last place the journalist was seen alive.
Turkish officials have asserted that a Saudi hit team killed Khashoggi earlier this month after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. On Monday, forensic experts had their first chance to comb the site, and they now plan to expand the searches to diplomatic vehicles and the main residence.
Pompeo also plans to travel to Turkey’s capital, Ankara, on Wednesday to meet with Turkish leaders for an update on the probe.
Turkey will offer a sharply different assessment of the case than given by the Saudis.
The kingdom has repeatedly denied any role in the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist who had been critical of the Saudi leadership. But international pressure has been mounting on the Saudi ruling family amid the conflicting accounts.
The Associated Press, citing a high-level Turkish official, reported Tuesday that “certain evidence” indicated that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, which he visited Oct. 2 to get a document needed so he could marry.
The AP report could not be independently confirmed, and it gave no specific details about the evidence collected.
But it reflected Turkey’s efforts to build its case against Saudi Arabia and possibly influence other nations as they weigh whether to reevaluate commercial and political ties with the kingdom. Some Western leaders and business executives have pulled out of a major investment forum in Saudi Arabia next week.
Amid the fallout, Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, left Turkey for Riyadh on Tuesday, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, citing diplomatic sources. He is the latest top Saudi diplomat around the world to return home for consultations.
Meanwhile, President Trump dispatched Pompeo to the Saudi capital for talks with King Salman, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader.
“Secretary Pompeo conveyed the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent and timely investigation,” said Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department.
Nauert said Pompeo called Trump and national security adviser John Bolton to update them on the meetings.
“While the United States has a number of regional and bilateral issues to discuss with Saudi leadership, learning what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is the primary purpose of this trip and is of great interest to the president,” Nauert said. “The secretary has made that clear in each of his meetings today.”
In public, however, Pompeo never mentioned Khashoggi, a U.S. resident.
The secretary of state was all smiles, his hand outstretched, as he approached the crown prince.