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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Saudi rejects 'baseless' murder claims over missing journalist

Saudi delegation is due to have talks this weekend in Ankara and take part in a working group on the disappearance

A security personnel walks past the entrance of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. AP
A security personnel walks past the entrance of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. AP

A delegation of 11 Saudi officials was in Turkey yesterday for talks on the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Riyadh slammed as “baseless lies” Turkish accusations that he was killed inside its Istanbul consulate 12 days ago.

Saudi insists that Khashoggi, who entered the consulate for paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee, left the building safely.

The Turkish claims around his disappearance threaten to not just harm brittle Turkey-Saudi relations but also alarm the kingdom’s supporters in the West and hurt the reform drive led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Top names from business and media have cancelled plans to attend a major conference in Riyadh this month to highlight the reforms.

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Read more:

Turkey asks to search Saudi consulate where Jamal Khashoggi was last seen

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

Saudi Arabia 'ready to welcome' Turkish search of Istanbul consulate

In a fractious region, Saudi Arabia seeks foreign policy reset

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The Saudi delegation was in Turkey to have talks this weekend in Ankara and take part in a working group announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman to look into the disappearance, official Turkish media said.

The delegation was composed of 11 people and had on Friday inspected the consulate in Istanbul. The composition of the delegation has not been made clear.

Riyadh has warmly welcomed the creation of the working group but Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud blasted the claims that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

Prince Abdulaziz said the accusations were “baseless allegations and lies”.

Ankara has so far trodden carefully in the controversy, with Mr Erdogan so far stopping short of directly accusing Riyadh of wrongdoing.

Turkey and Saudi have an uneasy relationship.

Analysts say that Turkey is hoping to find support from its Nato ally the US in the case, although the two have been in crisis over the detention of a Protestant pastor for the past two years.

But the pastor, Andrew Brunson, was freed on Friday and allowed to fly home by a Turkish court, in a move that could help to normalise ties.

Meanwhile Prince Mohammed’s Future Investment Initiative, called the “Davos in the Desert”, has had cancellations over the controversy.

Business figures such as the chief executive of ride-hailing app Uber, into which Saudi’s investment fund injected money, are no longer showing up while media groups including The New York Times, Financial Times and Bloomberg have pulled their sponsorship.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday that he still planned to attend, as did IMF chief Christine Lagarde.