U.S President Donald Trump stated concerns over the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.
“I am concerned. I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“Right now, nobody knows anything about it. There are some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it,” he said.
Turkish officials have said he was murdered inside the building. Riyadh denies that and claims he left the compound on his own.
US Vice President Mike Pence also said “the free world deserves answers”.
Deeply troubled to hear reports about Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If true, this is a tragic day. Violence against journalists across the globe is a threat to freedom of the press & human rights. The free world deserves answers.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) October 8, 2018
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Riyadh must provide “honest answers” about the journalist.
“We agree that if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the US-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid – economically and otherwise,” Graham tweeted.
“Our country’s values should be and must be a cornerstone of our foreign policy with foes and allies alike,” he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a thorough and open probe by Saudi Arabia.
“We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation,” Pompeo said in a statement.
US-based political analyst Bill Schneider was quoted by Al Jazeera as having said that the chorus of comments by American officials indicates the level concern over the journalist’s fate, and how it could effect the close relationship between Trump and Saudi leaders.
“They’re under pressure from members of congress and the press. Members of congress are talking about an investigation… The result is there is pressure domestically to look into this matter,” said Schneider.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Saudi officials must prove that Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“We have to get an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible. The consulate officials cannot save themselves by simply saying ‘he has left’,” Erdogan said.
Turkish authorities have said they believe Khashoggi was most likely killed inside the consulate building and his body later removed from the premises, though they haven’t provided any evidence.
The Washington Post also pressured the administration to investigate.
“If Mr Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate, it will cast the Saudi regime and its de facto ruler – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – in a new and disturbing light and require a thorough re-evaluation of US-Saudi relations,” the newspaper said in an op-ed.
Khashoggi, who had been living in self-exile in the United States, entered the consulate’s premises at around 1pm in what seemed to be a routine visit to sort out paperwork, before disappearing, the Arabic-language Arab21 news website reported on Tuesday, quoting his fiance, AJ reported.
A columnist for the Washington Post, he has been severely critical of the current bid for reform of the Kingdom by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His fiancee, requesting anonymity told the Post she accompanied him but waited outside and called the police when Khashoggi did not emerge after the consulate closed.
Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi’s who was also outside the consulate, told the newspaper, “I think 100 percent that he is inside.”