Missing Dissident: Turkey Requests to Search Saudi Consulate, Summons Ambassador Again

Turkish officials believe the prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate

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Seen behind barbed wire, the Saudi Arabia flag flies over the consulate in Istanbul, Sunday October 7th
Seen behind barbed wire, the Saudi Arabia flag flies over the consulate in Istanbul, Sunday October 7thCredit: Emrah Gurel/AP

Turkey summoned the Saudi Arabian Ambassador for the second time on Sunday. 

Turkey has asked for permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate for prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing last week, broadcaster NTV said on Monday. 

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event in London, September 29, 2018Credit: Handout/Reuters

Turkish officials told Reuters over the weekend that they believed Khashoggi had been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was personally following the case.

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Washington for the past year fearing retribution for his criticism of Saudi policies, entered the consulate on Tuesday, October 2, to secure documents for his forthcoming marriage, according to his fiancee, who waited outside. He has not been heard of since.

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Since then, Turkish and Saudi officials have offered conflicting accounts of his disappearance, with Ankara saying there was no evidence that he had left the diplomatic mission and Riyadh saying he exited the premises the same day. 

A Turkish security source told Reuters that a group of 15 Saudi nationals, including some officials, had arrived in Istanbul in two planes and entered the consulate on the same day Khashoggi was there, and later left the country. 

The Turkish source said Turkish officials were trying to identify them. Turkey's Anadolu news agency also reported that the group of Saudis were briefly at the consulate. 

On Monday, a Turkish official also said Saudi Arabia's envoy to Ankara had been summoned to the foreign ministry for a second time on Sunday and had been asked by Turkish diplomats to be "in full coordination" on the matter.

Khashoggi's disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey has had strained relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states since June 2017, when Ankara stood by Qatar in a regional row. Arab states cut trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar over alleged links to terrorism, which Doha denies. 

Turkey has also worked with Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-rival in the Middle East, to try to reduce fighting in northern Syria, and Iranian and Turkish military chiefs exchanged visits last year.

Khashoggi is a former Saudi newspaper editor who has lived in self-exile in Washington, D.C. for more than a year. He left Saudi Arabia after authorities had instructed him to stop tweeting. 

As a journalist, he interviewed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan and Sudan, and served twice as editor of Al Watan newspaper. 

He advised Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States and Britain, and has also been close to billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. 

Over the past year, Khashoggi has written regular columns in the Washington Post criticising Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: accusing him of repressing the Saudi people, creating a mess in Lebanon and prosecuting a cruel war in Yemen.

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