U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that he has spoken with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about missing Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, and that he was sending U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king immediately.
Trump also said Salman denied "any knowledge of whatever may have happened" to Khashoggi, who disappeared after he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, and told him the Saudis are working closely with Turkey on the case.
Trump told reporters shortly later that Pompeo will leave within the hour for Saudi Arabia and added that his top diplomat may travel to other countries as needed.
“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows,” Trump added.
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The president also said he told King Salman, “The world is watching. The world is talking, and this is very important to get to the bottom of.”
"The president has called for a prompt and open investigation into the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi," department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, vanished after entering the consulate to get marriage documents. Turkish officials have said authorities believe he was murdered and his body removed, allegations that Saudi Arabia has denied.
The case has provoked an international outcry, with Trump threatening "severe punishment" if it turns out Khashoggi was killed in the consulate and European allies urging "a credible investigation" and accountability for those responsible.
A Turkish diplomatic source said investigators would inspect the consulate on Monday afternoon, after delays last week when Turkey accepted a Saudi proposal to work together to find out what happened to Khashoggi.
"The King has ordered the Public Prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi matter based on the info from the joint team in Istanbul," a Saudi official, not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters.
Asked when the public prosecutor could make an announcement about the investigation, the official said: "He was instructed to work quickly."
Britain expects Riyadh to provide "a complete and detailed response" to questions over Khashoggi's disappearance, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Monday.
Saudi Arabia has responded to Western statements by saying it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions "with greater action," and Arab allies rallied to support it, setting up a potential showdown between the world's top oil exporter and its main Western allies.
King Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday evening and stressed the importance of the two countries creating a joint group as part of the probe.
Broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Monday that the Saudi team had arrived at Istanbul police headquarters.