US-Saudi tensions: Khashoggi case

Saudi Arabia is one of Washington’s closest allies and the Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, disappearance is putting the White House in an awkward position.

Mr. Khashoggi is a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post newspaper who went into self-imposed exile last year after reportedly being warned by Saudi officials to stop criticizing the crown prince’s policies.

He arrived at the consulate at 13:14 local time for an appointment to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiancée.

Saudi officials have insisted Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate soon afterwards and came to no harm. But Turkish officials believe an assault and struggle took place in the building.

They allege that Mr. Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents who were pictured entering and leaving Turkey on CCTV footage released to media outlets. Four of the 15 agents have links to Crown Prince Mohammed, while another is a senior figure in the country’s interior ministry.

On Tuesday, G7 foreign ministers called for Saudi Arabia to conduct a “transparent” investigation into the issue.

The existence of audio evidence that Mr. Khashoggi – a critic of Saudi leaders – was murdered was revealed by Turkish investigators early on in their inquiries. Reports in Turkish media give gruesome details of what are said to be his final minutes.

A Turkish newspaper says the consul himself, Mohammed al-Otaibi, can be heard in the audio recording of Mr Khashoggi’s death. Yeni Safak, which is close to the government, quotes him as telling alleged Saudi agents sent to Istanbul: “Do this outside. You’re going to get me in trouble.” Mr Otaibi flew back to Riyadh on Tuesday.

On Wednesday and into Thursday, investigators spent almost nine hours searching the Saudi consul’s residence, then moving on to the consulate itself about 200m (650ft) away, according to Reuters news agency.

Turkish police search Saudi consulate

The team included prosecutors and forensics experts in white overalls. Several vehicles with Saudi diplomatic number plates were filmed by CCTV cameras moving from the consulate to the residence just less than two hours after Mr. Khashoggi entered the consulate on the day he vanished.

The consulate building was searched for the first time on Monday.

On Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo was in Riyadh for talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who he said “strongly denied” any involvement in the journalist’s disappearance.

Pompeo got a warm welcome from both King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s putative leader. Yet the U.S. response to the disappearance and feared murder of Khashoggi is complicated by a relationship that stretches back more than seven decades.

Confirming that the tape said to provide evidence of the killing had been requested, Mr Trump added: “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.” Mr. Trump said he expected a report from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who has just been to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The president said the truth would come out “by the end of the week”. He rejected suggestions he was trying to provide cover for Saudi Arabia: “No, not at all, I just want to find out what’s happening.”

Over the past few days, Mr. Trump has raised the possibility of “rogue killers” being behind the journalist’s disappearance. And he has cautioned against rushing to blame Saudi leaders, telling the Associated Press news agency that they were being treated as “guilty until proven innocent”.