Thursday, May 23

Turkey, Saudi at odds over Istanbul consulate search


CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson stands in front of Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey. — AFP photo

ANKARA: Turkey and Saudi Arabia are at odds over a planned search by the Turkish authorities at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate where journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared last week, media said yesterday.

Saudi journalist and The Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished on Oct 2 after entering the consulate to obtain documents ahead of his upcoming marriage.

Riyadh agreed on Tuesday to let Turkish authorities search the Saudi mission as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Khashoggi, 59. But the search has not yet taken place.

Pro-government Turkish daily Sabah said this was because Saudi officials would only allow a superficial ‘visual’ probe.

The Turkish side did not accept the offer and Sabah said officials wanted to search the building with luminol, a chemical that allows the discovery of blood traces.

The newspaper reported there had been intense diplomatic contacts between the two sides.

Reports of a dispute come after presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday that a joint working group would be set up.

Saudi Arabia insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate safely but Turkish officials have said he did not leave the building, with police believing he may have been killed. The murder claims have been dismissed by Riyadh as ‘baseless’.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Riyadh to prove Khashoggi left, challenging Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its account.

Officers were looking into sound recordings sent from a smart watch that Khashoggi was wearing when he was inside the consulate to a mobile phone which he gave to his Turkish fiancee waiting outside, Hatice Cengiz.

While Milliyet daily reported that’arguments and shouting’ could be heard on the recordings, Sozcu newspaper said that only “some conversations” could be heard.

Pro-government daily Yeni Safak reported that police were also investigating the possibility that Khashoggi’s body was taken via the sewage system.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national living in the United States since September 2017 fearing arrest, criticised some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as well as Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen. — AFP