Turkey to conduct search at Saudi consulate

Diplomatic source says Ankara expected to search building where Khashoggi last seen as part of investigation as tension mounts between two states.
Monday 15/10/2018
Last week the regional rivals agreed to set up a joint working group to solve the mystery over the disappearance

ANKARA - Turkish investigators were on Monday expected to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for the first time since journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman discussed the case by phone.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to sort out marriage paperwork on October 2.

Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed -- a claim Saudi Arabia refuted -- and the controversy has dealt a huge blow to the image of the kingdom and efforts by the youthful crown prince to showcase a reform drive.

Riyadh had so far not allowed the search at the Istanbul consulate -- officially Saudi territory -- amid reports both sides were at odds over the conditions of the probe.

But a Turkish diplomatic source said it was expected that the search, a joint operation with Saudi authorities, would "take place towards the evening" Monday.

Dozens of media organisations -- some of whom had set up tents -- were maintaining a constant vigil outside the consulate in expectation of the search finally beginning.

Cleaners were seen going into the building around lunchtime, causing a minor flurry of excitement, a reporter said.

The Saudi delegation that was due to be involved in the search and has been in Turkey since Friday arrived at Istanbul police headquarters, Turkish television said.

No-one can undermine ties 

The development came after Erdogan and King Salman had their first telephone talks since the controversy erupted, in what appeared to be a conciliatory conversation according to official readouts.

While lurid claims have appeared in Turkish media the Turkish leadership has so far refrained from pointing the finger directly at Riyadh in public comments.

Salman emphasised the importance of the Turkey-Saudi relationship and said no-one should be able to "undermine the strength of this relationship," official Saudi media said.

He also thanked Erdogan for "welcoming the kingdom's proposal to form a joint working group" on the disappearance.

Erdogan and Salman discussed "the issue of shedding light on the case of Jamal Khashoggi" and also emphasised the "importance of creating a joint working group within the framework of the investigation," said a Turkish presidential source, who asked not to be named.