US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit Turkey

Hugh Fox
October 20, 2018

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed with Saudi Arabia on the importance of conducting a "thorough, transparent, and timely" investigation of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish officials say they believe he was killed, but Saudi Arabia has strongly denied the allegations and has denounced such assertions as "lies", saying he left the building shortly after entering.

The controversy has troubled Saudi's traditional Western allies - who are key arms suppliers to the kingdom - and also undermined efforts by Mohammed bin Salman to present himself as a modernising ruler.

Trump spoke after a personal 20-minute phone call with Saudi King Salman and as the president dispatched his secretary of state to Riyadh for a face-to-face discussion with the king. On Monday, sources told CNN that the report will acknowledge that Khashoggi died in a botched interrogation, one that was meant to lead to his abduction from Turkey.

A high-ranking Turkish official told the Associated Press the joint inspection team has found "certain evidence" Khashoggi was murdered in the diplomatic outpost. It is unclear whether the crown prince authorized an interrogation, abduction or killing.

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The New York Times reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia was preparing a statement that said the columnist was killed by accident in an interrogation gone wrong.

Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving.

After his crunch talks in Riyadh Tuesday, Pompeo was expected in Turkey on Wednesday to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

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 driving ban for women.

Speaking at a trip to survey hurricane damage in Florida on Monday, Mr Trump admitted he had heard the reports of an imminent Saudi admission, but said "it's just a rumour of a report coming out". 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. Trump said Pompeo has license to travel wherever necessary, including Turkey, to investigate what happened.

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CBS News correspondent Holly Williams, in Istanbul, says another question is how much damage the entire episode will do to Saudi Arabia, which remains a key USA ally in the tumultuous Middle East.

The South Carolinian also said that Saudi Arabia has "nothing but contempt" for the United States and that he's "personally offended" by their actions. Another source told CNN the report is likely to shift blame from top Saudi officials, arguing the plot was carried out without official clearance and transparency while seeking to place blame on those immediately involved.

"Been hearing the ridiculous "rogue killers" theory was where the Saudis would go with this", Democratic US Senator Chris Murphy said on Twitter.

That could, like Trump's comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi's fate.

Murphy and Graham were among 20 Senate Foreign Relations Committee members who support imposing sanctions against those responsible, including the highest-ranking officials in the government of Saudi Arabia.

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The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Turkey, the Turkish media reported October 16.

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