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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Increased questions about whereabouts of Jamal Khashoggi

Donald Trump says US investigators are on the case while Britain warns of risk to relations

A Turkish police barrier placed behind the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 11, 2018. AFP
A Turkish police barrier placed behind the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 11, 2018. AFP

The United States is working with Saudi Arabia to discover the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump said on Thursday as Riyadh came under increasing international pressure to support its assertion that it had no hand in the Saudi journalist's disappearance.

Mr Trump said US investigators had also been sent to help Turkey's efforts to trace Mr Khashoggi, who went missing on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "We're working with Turkey, and frankly we're working with Saudi Arabia," the US president said in an interview on the Fox News.

“I have to find out what happened,” he said. “We’re probably getting closer than you might think.”

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of US legislators triggered a human rights investigation into Mr Khashoggi's disappearance that could result in sanctions if he is found to have been killed. However, Mr Trump ruled out suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia who is being blamed for the disappearance, as suggested by some legislators.

Mr Khashoggi, 60, a Saudi citizen who has been critical of the kingdom despite close ties with top officials, had been living in self-imposed exile in the US for the past year and wrote critical column pieces for The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia denies Turkish allegations that Mr Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate to obtain divorce papers, and says he left soon after arriving last week. His fiance, Hatice Cengiz, who waited outside, says she did not see him leave. Saudi Arabia has offered to allow a search of the consulate, but this has not yet taken place.

Britain, a close Saudi ally, said the incident could affect relations with Riyadh if they are behind the incident.

"People who have long thought of themselves as Saudi's friends are saying this is a very, very serious matter," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.

"If these allegations are true, there will be serious consequences because our friendships and our partnerships are based on shared values."

Mr Hunt said he had spoken to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir and had told him "how very, very concerned the United Kingdom is".

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al Saud, said he hoped the investigation would bear fruit "soon".

"There is an ongoing investigation and it would be premature of me to comment until we see the final results," Prince Mohammed told the BBC.

He said Saudi Arabia "would like to know what happened" to Mr Khashoggi.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile asked Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its assertion that Khashoggi had left the consulate safely.

"Is it possible there were no camera systems in a consulate, in an embassy? Is it possible that there was no Saudi camera system where this incident took place?" Mr Erdogan told reporters in comments published on Thursday.

"If a bird flew, or a fly or a mosquito appeared, the systems would capture this; they [Saudi Arabia] have the most cutting-edge systems," he said.

Saudi authorities have said they do not have security footage from that day. US Senator Bob Corker, the head of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, said on Wednesday that he was told by Saudi officials that the consulate security cameras only relayed live footage and did not record.

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Read more:

Fresh leaks in Khashoggi case Turkish press runs new pictures

Rumours of Jamal Khashoggi killing are 'malicious' and 'outrageous', says Saudi ambassador

Fiance asks Trump to help Post's missing Saudi contributor

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