A security member of the Saudi Arabia consulate stays behind a police fence as man waits outside on October 16, 2018 after Turkish forensic police and investigation delagation left the consulate in Istanbul. Photo: Ozan Kose | AFP
US top diplomat Mike Pompeo met Tuesday with Saudi King Salman and the crown prince seeking to defuse a crisis over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with American officials saying Riyadh had agreed the need for a "thorough" probe.
The urgent talks came after US President Donald Trump dispatched Pompeo to the Gulf kingdom amid a growing international outcry about Khashoggi's disappearance.
Khashoggi has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to sort out marriage paperwork.
"Rogue killers" could be to blame, Trump said after telephone talks on Monday with the king.
After first meeting with the king, Pompeo held separate talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
"We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together," the crown prince said as he warmly welcomed Pompeo at the palace. The two men were also due to have dinner together later Tuesday.
"The secretary and the foreign minister agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said later.
Turkish police Monday searched the consulate for the first time since the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who had become increasingly critical of Prince Mohammed.
Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed -- a claim Saudi Arabia has denied -- with the controversy dealing a huge blow to the prince's efforts to showcase a reform drive and burnish the kingdom's image.
US media reported on Monday that the oil-rich kingdom is considering an admission that Khashoggi died after an interrogation that went wrong during an intended abduction.
The UN human rights chief called Tuesday for the lifting of the immunity of officials who might be involved in Khashoggi's disappearance.
Due to the seriousness of the case "I believe the inviolability or immunity of the relevant premises and officials... should be waived immediately," Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.
The investigators, who searched the premises for eight hours into Tuesday morning, took samples with them, including soil from the consulate garden, one official at the scene said.
Istanbul police are now also planning to search the nearby consul's residence, a diplomatic source said.
Trump's comments came after a telephone conversation with King Salman, father of the crown prince, the first such talks since the crisis erupted.
"Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened 'to our Saudi Arabian citizen'," Trump tweeted.
"The denial was very, very strong," Trump told reporters. "It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?"
But CNN cited two sources as saying the Saudis are preparing a report that his death resulted from a botched interrogation, while the Wall Street Journal said the kingdom was weighing whether to say that rogue operatives killed Khashoggi by mistake.
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.
'Davos in Desert' unravels
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.
An investment conference seen as a platform for the crown prince and dubbed the "Davos in the Desert", scheduled to take place in Riyadh next week, has been hit by a string of prominent cancellations.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Ford chairman Bill Ford and Larry Fink, the head of investment giant BlackRock, were among the latest business barons to cancel plans to attend.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he still plans to attend but would "take (it)... into account" if more information came out.
The controversy meanwhile threw into doubt a $400 million deal the Saudi Public Investment Fund negotiated with Hollywood's most powerful talent agency as part of the crown prince's drive for a foothold in the entertainment industry.
Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel said the Khashoggi case was "very, very concerning", although he stopped short of pronouncing the deal was dead.
Trump has threatened the kingdom with "severe punishment" if it is shown that Khashoggi was killed inside its Istanbul mission.
But he has also made clear he is reluctant to curb all-important arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Britain, France and Germany also released a rare joint statement saying they were treating Khashoggi's disappearance "with the utmost seriousness" and calling for a "credible investigation".
Riyadh, however, has vowed to hit back against any punitive measures imposed over the affair.
Pompeo arrives for meeting with Saudi crown prince
US top diplomat Mike Pompeo arrived at Riyadh's royal palace Tuesday to talk about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, an AFP journalist saw.
Earlier in the day, he discussed the case of Khashoggi — who has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 — with King Salman.
US President Donald Trump dispatched Pompeo to Riyadh for what the State Department has described as "face to face meetings with the Saudi leadership" about the incident which sparked international outrage.
Istanbul police to search Saudi consul's residence in Khashoggi case
Turkish police will search the residence of the Saudi consul in Istanbul as part of their investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashogghi at the kingdom's consulate in the city, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.
The timing of the search was not immediately made clear. It comes after Turkish police and prosecutors on Monday searched the consulate building for over eight hours, two weeks after the journalist went missing there.
UN rights chief calls to lift Saudi 'immunity' over Khashoggi
The UN human rights chief called Tuesday for the lifting of the immunity of officials who might be involved in the disappearance of a Saudi Arabian journalist at the kingdom's consulate in Turkey.
"In view of the seriousness of the situation surrounding the disappearance of Mr. (Jamal) Khashoggi, I believe the inviolability or immunity of the relevant premises and officials bestowed by treaties such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations should be waived immediately," rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.
Turkish police on Monday searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for the first time since Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing.
He has not been seen since he walked into the Istanbul consulate -- officially Saudi territory -- to sort out marriage paperwork on October 2.
Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed -- a claim Saudi Arabia has denied -- with the controversy dealing a huge blow to the kingdom's image and efforts by its youthful crown prince to showcase a reform drive.
Bachelet stressed that "under international law, both a forced disappearance and an extra-judicial killing are very serious crimes, and immunity should not be used to impede investigations into what happened and who is responsible.
"Two weeks is a very long time for the probable scene of a crime not to have been subjected to a full forensic investigation."
Saudi Arabia can lift the immunity of its consulate and officials.
Bachelet's spokesman Rupert Colville told AFP that the UN rights chief had been in contact with the Saudis to discuss the matter.
"Given (that) there seems to be clear evidence that Mr. Khashoggi entered the Consulate and has never been seen since, the onus is on the Saudi authorities to reveal what happened to him from that point onwards," Bachelet said.
US media reported on Monday that the kingdom is considering an admission that Khashoggi died after an interrogation that went wrong during an intended abduction.
Pompeo holds talks with Saudi king on missing journalist
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Saudi King Salman on Tuesday on the disappearance of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The US chief diplomat was dispatched by President Donald Trump to hold "face to face meetings with the Saudi leadership" on what happened to Khashoggi, who has not been seen since he walked into his country's consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Later, Pompeo is scheduled to have dinner with Salman's powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the same issue amid reports the kingdom is preparing to say the journalist was killed by mistake.
Reports | AFP