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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Turkey's Erdogan hopes case of missing journalist ends 'positively'

Riyadh says claims that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul are 'baseless' 

A demonstrator holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. Reuters
A demonstrator holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he was personally following the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared last week, and added that he still hoped for a positive outcome to the matter.

Erdogan told reporters that authorities were looking into all camera records and monitoring incoming and outgoing airport transits, but added that Turkey would await the results of the prosecutor's investigation before going into more detail.

"The entries and exits from the consulate are ... all being investigated now and being followed and all departures and arrivals from the airport are all being followed and our police force is controlling them and at the same time various units of our police chasing it," he said. "We will see and we want a result from here of course with speed.

"God willing, we will not be faced with the situation we do not desire", he said when asked by journalists about Khashoggi. Mr Erdogan added that the disappearance in Turkey was very sad.

The hotly anticipated speech by the Turkish president was expected to shed further light on the country's investigations into the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi who hasn't been seen since he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. However, he did not repeat allegations made by other named and unnamed officials that Mr Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate building.

Saudi Arabia has rejected the accusations regarding the journalist, who has been missing for six days, and allowed investigators and members of the press to search the building.

An unnamed Turkish official said on Saturday that “the initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.”

The official did not provide details on how the body had been taken away or whether it had been found.

Mr Aktay, who advises Erdogan in his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Reuters that the Turkish authorities believed a group of 15 Saudi nationals were "most certainly involved". He said that statements by Saudi officials on the absence of camera records were not sincere.

The Saudi authorities say Mr Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after entering to collect some official paperwork.

Turkish sources leaked statements about Mr Khashoggi late on Saturday, rather than going through official channels.

Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul, Mohammad Al Otaibi, gave reporters a tour of the consulate and described talk of the kidnapping as “baseless”. Mr Al Otaibi said: “I would like to confirm that Jamal is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him.”

“The idea of kidnapping a Saudi citizen by a diplomatic mission is something that should not be [propagated] in the media,” he said.

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The head of Saudi Arabia's diplomatic mission to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, tweeted on Sunday that he believes the allegations the kingdom had killed Mr Khashoggi's were part of a 'conspiracy'.

"The charade of Khashoggi’s assassination is a conspiracy and an intelligence plot to harm the reputation of Saudi Arabia," Mr Bukhari tweeted.

Mr Khashoggi’s fiance Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting for him outside the consulate on Tuesday, rejected news reports claiming he was killed. “Jamal is not killed and I refuse to believe he is killed…!” she wrote in a post which featured an old photo of Mr Khashoggi at a restaurant.

Yet, Mr Khashoggi's eldest son, Salah Jamal Al Khashoggi, said that his family have not heard of Hatice Cengiz, and condoned the "malicious" agenda behind his father's disappearance.

"I don't know this lady and I have never heard of her except through social media," Mr Khashoogi told Al Arabiya, adding that they are in touch with the Saudi authorities.

Mr Khashoggi disappeared on Tuesday after entering the Saudi consulate to pick up a form that proves the termination of his previous marriage in the kingdom.

Mr Khashoggi is closely aligned to the Turkish AKP party of Mr Erdogan. He is also a columnist with The Washington Post and has criticised some of the Saudi government’s policies, in addition to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Saudi Consulate in Istanbul declined to give any details on Mr Khashoggi's whereabouts.