A team of Turkish and Saudi officials has entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for a joint inspection two weeks after Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was allegedly assassinated and dismembered inside.
They entered the building at 6pm local time, hours after a cleaning team swept the premises amid claims the building has been repainted.
Tonight’s inspection was agreed after Saudi King Salman and Turkish President Erdogan spoke yesterday – but the Turks don’t trust the Saudis not to obfuscate the investigation, a senior Turkish source today told the Middle Eastern Eye.
Earlier today, President Donald Trump speculated ‘rogue killers’ were to blame after revealing the Saudi king denied any murder plot during a phone conversation between the pair last night.
A team of cleaners entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul today ahead of an inspection by Turkish and Saudi officials
Cleaning personnel wait to enter Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul on Monday afternoon
Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter who spent much time in the west, on holiday
Trump said in a Monday morning tweet that he would send a top U.S. official, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to Middle East to confront Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in person
Talks: Trump said he had now spoken to King Salman, the Saudi king. He and Melania Trump met the king on their very first foreign trip (pictured) in May 2017
Speaking to reporters in the White House this morning, Trump said King Salman’s denial ‘could not have been stronger.’
‘He said it very strongly,’ Trump said when pressed to say whether he believed the Saudi king.
He added: ‘It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Riyadh today, the State Department said, adding that ‘the president has called for a prompt and open investigation.’
It comes after oil prices rose following Saudi Arabia‘s thinly veiled threat yesterday to cut production if the US imposes sanctions amid growing international tension over the disappearance.
Britain, Germany and France have jointly called for a ‘credible investigation,’ Egypt has backed Saudi Arabia and warned of ‘false claims’ against its ally and Australia’s foreign minister has said she is ‘deeply concerned’.
Khashoggi, who was notoriously critical of Saudi Arabia’s new Crown Prince, entered the consulate on 2 October to get documents to marry his Turkish wife – but has not been seen since.
Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has called such allegations ‘baseless’ but has not proved the writer ever left the consulate.
A Saudi source said on Monday that the Crown Prince has ordered an internal investigation of the disappearance.
Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi. Pictured: Cleaners at the consulate
Saudi Arabia has called such allegations ‘baseless’ but has not proved the writer ever left the consulate. Pictured: Cleaners at the consulate
A Saudi source said on Monday that the Crown Prince has ordered an internal investigation of the disappearance. Pictured: Cleaners at the consulate
People wait for visa procedures in front of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before the inspection this evening
Visitors leave the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on the day of a joint inspection
An official at Turkey’s Foreign Ministry announced the inspection this morning. Saudi Arabia then released a statement thanking Turkey for the co-oporation.
It read: ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud telephoned his brother Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to thank the president for welcoming the kingdom’s proposal to form a joint working group to discuss the disappearance of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi.
‘The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques stressed the keenness of the Kingdom on its relations with Turkey as much as the brotherly Republic of Turkey is keen on that and that no one will get undermine the strength of this relationship.
‘For his part, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the Republic of Turkey, appreciated the fraternal, distinguished, historical and close relations between the two countries and the two peoples and his keenness to strengthen and develop them.’
Oil prices rise and the Riyal dips
On Monday Benchmark Brent crude oil jumped by $1.49 a barrel to a high of $81.92.
The riyal was quoted at 3.7524 to the US dollar in the spot market early on Monday, its weakest rate since September 2016, Refinitiv data showed.
It comes after Saudi Arabia issued a thinly veiled threat to cut oil production if the US imposes sanctions over the disappearance.
There are also fears companies will turn away from investing in the Kingdom
On Saturday, Trump said Saudi Arabia could face ‘severe punishment’ if it is proven it was involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
In response on Sunday, in a thinly veiled threat to cut oil production, Saudi Arabia warned that if it ‘receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy.’
‘The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures or repeating false accusations,’ said the statement, carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
Trump has said repeatedly he does not want to halt a proposed $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia – as some in Congress have suggested – because it would harm the U.S. economically.
But on Monday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said: ‘We will take stern action with the Saudis if necessary. The United States is the dominant energy player so we’re in pretty good shape, in my opinion, with our energy boom to cover any shortfalls. We’ll wait and see, but rest assured that when the president says we will take actions if we find out bad outcomes, he means it.’
On Monday Benchmark Brent crude oil jumped by $1.49 a barrel to a high of $81.92 amid fears of diminishing supply.
Traders Trafigura and Mercuria said Brent could rise to $90 per barrel by Christmas and pass $100 in early 2019.
The Kingdom’s currency fell to its lowest level in two years and its international bond prices slipped over fears that foreign investment inflows could shrink
Saudi media backed up the government’s strong statement in television broadcasts and newspaper front pages Monday.
The Arabic-language daily Okaz wrote a headline on Monday in English, warning: ‘Don’t Test Our Patience.’ It showed a clenched fist made of a crowd of people in the country’s green color.
Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2. He has not been seen since and Turkey has accused Saudi agents of murdering him
Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, pictured in Switzerland in 2011, may have been murdered because he knew too much about the Saudi royal family, one of his friends has said
The Saudi Gazette trumpeted: ‘Enough Is Enough,’ while the Arab News said: ‘Saudi Arabia ‘will not be bullied’.’
The Arab News’ headline was above a front-page editorial by Dubai-based real-estate tycoon Khalaf al-Habtoor, calling on Gulf Arab nations to boycott international firms now backing out of a planned economic summit in Riyadh later this month.
‘Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the kingdom, we will be next in line,’ al-Habtoor said.
Already, international business leaders are pulling out of the kingdom’s upcoming investment forum, a high-profile event known as ‘Davos in the Desert.’
They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured)
News that the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, would pull out of the conference drew angry responses across the region.
The foreign minister of the neighboring island kingdom of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, tweeted Sunday night that there should be a boycott of the ride-hailing app both there and in Saudi Arabia.
Late Sunday, Saudi King Salman spoke by telephone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Khashoggi.
Turkey said Erdogan ‘stressed the forming of a joint working group to probe the case.’ Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said King Salman thanked Erdogan ‘for welcoming the kingdom’s proposal’ for forming the working group.
The king also said Turkey and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relations and ‘that no one will get to undermine the strength of this relationship,’ according to a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
While Turkey and the kingdom differ on political issues, Saudi investments are a crucial lifeline for Ankara amid trouble with its national currency, the Turkish lira.
Prince Mohammed, King Salman’s son, has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. But Khashoggi’s disappearance has led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh called the Future Investment Initiative.
Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince.