The US has asked Saudi Arabia to support a “thorough” and “transparent” probe into the disappearance of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after Turkey pressured the Saudi government to clarify his whereabouts.
“We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Monday.
Pompeo added that “State Department senior officials have spoken with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through diplomatic channels about this matter”.
He also expressed his concern about the contradictory reports on the safety and whereabouts of Khashoggi.
Earlier in the day, US President Donald Trump also voiced his worries.
“I am concerned about it,” he said on returning to Washington DC after a visit to Florida.
“I don’t like hearing about it, and hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now, nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.”
The veteran journalist distanced himself from the Saudi monarchy in 2017 and went into exile in the US, where he began writing op-eds for the Washington Post criticising his country´s royal institutions.
According to a US official briefed by Turkish counterparts, Khashoggi was murdered by a 15-member Saudi team dispatched to kill him. His body was likely dismembered, removed in boxes and flown out of the country, the Washington Post reported.
The grisly claims sent a jolt through the US capital, which is traditionally friendly territory for Riyadh. Khashoggi, 59, had recently moved to the US in self-imposed exile.
If his killing is confirmed, it could prompt a decisive change in how the Washington deals with Riyadh. Leading Republican and Democratic lawmakers issued notes of alarm over the reports of Khashoggi’s death and threatened repercussions if they are true, the Post said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded on Monday the authorities of Saudi Arabia prove the journalist left the consulate alive with images from the security cameras.
The Turkish government also asked for permission to search the premises of the consulate.
The Turkish authorities have not ruled on the possibility that Khashoggi has been killed, as reported by his friends and colleagues.