Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Monday that Saudi Arabia prove that journalist Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul 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 of potential Saudi culpability in Khashoggi's disappearance. But other Turkish officials have said they believe that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the consulate.
"Do you not have cameras and everything of the sort?" Erdogan said of the consular officials. "They have all of them. Then why do you not prove this? You need to prove it."
Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador to urge "full cooperation" in the investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance, the official Anadolu news agency said Monday.
The ambassador was called to the ministry in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Sunday, the agency said. It was the second time Turkey summoned the ambassador since Khashoggi failed to emerge after a visit to the consulate on Oct. 2.
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. Saudi authorities have called the allegation "baseless."
In his first remarks about the disappearance, President Donald 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, who personally questioned the Saudi ambassador to Washington, D.C., late last week, is said to be paying close attention to the case while traveling in Asia. Pompeo is to return to Washington early Tuesday.
Turkey has yet to make any evidence public. The private Turkish broadcaster NTV reported Monday that police had requested access to the Saudi Consulate. It was unclear whether the police were granted access or whether they would search the diplomatic mission in Istanbul's Levent district at a later date.
A report Monday in the daily newspaper Sabah said investigators were also focused on a convoy of diplomatic vehicles that departed from the consulate on the day Khashoggi vanished. A U.S. official said that Turkish investigators believe Khashoggi was likely dismembered and his body removed in boxes and flown out of the country.
Members of Congress, where there has long been bipartisan skepticism about Saudi Arabia, have issued statements and tweets demanding answers from Riyadh. Sen. Lindsey 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, Virginia, said that he had consulted with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., over their "shared concerns regarding the whereabouts and treatment" of Khashoggi.
In a meeting with The Washington Post's publisher, Fred Ryan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said Sunday night that it was "impossible" that such a crime could be covered up by consulate employees "and we wouldn't know about it."
The ambassador, Prince Khalid bin Salman, reiterated a statement made by other Saudi officials that video cameras at the consulate had not been recording on the day of Khashoggi's visit. The ambassador declined to discuss the matter further, saying, "We don't want to harm the investigation." He added, "Speculation does not help our mission."
Khalid said that Khashoggi, who was once close to the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, had "always been honest." Khashoggi's criticism of the current Saudi leadership "has been sincere," the ambassador said, adding that he had seen him personally over the past year and had even exchanged text messages with him.
During the meeting, Ryan expressed The Post's "grave concern" about Khashoggi's disappearance. He said that The Post was committed to discovering the truth and that if the investigation showed any Saudi government involvement, the news organization would view it as a flagrant attack on one of its journalists.
Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper based in London, has published articles quoting Khashoggi's Saudi-based family in support of the Riyadh government. On Monday, a lengthy article decried "false news reports" about the case as emanating from the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, Saudi Arabia's neighbor and rival.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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