Pompeo visits Turkey in bid to defuse Khashoggi outcry
Pressure is building on Saudi Arabia to put forth a credible narrative explaining the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Wednesday in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the disappearance and presumed death of Saudi journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Turkish authorities believe he was murdered, dismembered and possibly transported out of the country in pieces by a 15-man Saudi “hit squad” who flew in and out of the country during the time in question. The team included a forensic scientist affiliated to the Saudi interior ministry as well as individuals traveling on diplomatic passports, whose luggage would not have been subject to search.
Turkey has steadily leaked details and identities involved in the alleged killing even as officials remain publicly cautious over the affair in an apparent effort to gain diplomatic backing from Washington.
US President Donald Trump has issued varied responses, most recently giving credence to Saudi denials and comparing the treatment of Saudi Arabia to that of his Supreme Court nominee, and now justice, Brett Kavanaugh.
“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told the Associated Press, even as a top senator in his own party, Lindsey Graham, called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia under the current crown prince.
In Riyadh on Tuesday, Trump’s top envoy was all smiles and laughter in a meeting with 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“The Secretary and the Crown Prince agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation that provides answers,” the State Department said in a statement.
Pompeo continued on Wednesday to Turkey, where investigators were still waiting for access to the Saudi consul general’s home.
“Unfortunately, the search at the residence [of the Saudi consul general] did not happen last night. Saudis claimed that his family was inside,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Wednesday after meeting with Pompeo. “We are hoping to enter the residence today,” he said.
President Erdogan on Tuesday told reporters that investigators, who were allowed to access the consulate itself, were forced to contend with what appeared to be fresh paint on the consulate walls.