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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Saudi Arabia 'ready to welcome' Turkish search of Istanbul consulate for missing journalist

Writer Jamal Khashoggi thought to have gone missing after entering Saudi mission

Demonstrators hold pictures of writer Jamal Khashoggi who went missing after entering Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate. AP
Demonstrators hold pictures of writer Jamal Khashoggi who went missing after entering Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate. AP

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he will allow Turkish investigators to search the kingdom's Istanbul consulate for a missing journalist.

Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared this week after he entered the mission.

Prince Mohammed said the kingdom was "keen to know what happened to him" and said an investigation had been launched.

Ankara and Riyadh gave contradictory versions of the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi's disappearance, with Turkish officials saying they believed he was still inside the consulate.

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"My understanding is he entered [the consulate] and he got out after a few minutes or one hour," the Crown Prince told Bloomberg on Wednesday. "We are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises."

"The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do. If they ask for that, of course, we will allow them. We have nothing to hide."

Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said on Saturday that a probe had been opened into the disappearance, with Istanbul prosecutors saying that an investigation launched on Tuesday had since been widened.

Both The Associated Press and The Washington Post were quoting an anonymous Turkish official on Saturday night, who said that they believed Mr Khashoggi may have been killed.

The 59-year-old Khashoggi went missing Tuesday while on a visit to the consulate for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiance. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials.

On Friday, supporters of Mr Khashoggi gathered outside the Saudi consulate in the city's Besiktas district calling for his "release" despite Riyadh's denials that he was being held inside.

Mr Khashoggi, who has been critical of some policies of Mohammed bin Salman, has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year to avoid possible arrest.

Human rights groups and media-freedom campaigners are calling on Saudi Arabia to verify Mr Khashoggi's whereabouts. The Washington Post, which regularly featured Mr Khashoggi's writings, on Friday published a blank space where his column would normally appear.