The Saudi Arabia's consul general in Istanbul has left Turkey for Riyadh as investigation into the fate of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul two week ago, widens.
Mohammad al-Otaibi left Turkey on a commercial flight on Tuesday, hours before his residence was expected to be searched by Turkish police in relation to the disappearance of the 59-year-old writer.
Earlier in the day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country’s security forces would interrogate officials at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul if need be.
“It's the responsibility of the Chief Prosecutors' Office to decide whom to interrogate or the questions to be asked... The prosecutors may ask for the testimony of [any Saudi officials at the consulate] if needed,” he said at a news conference following a meeting with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Kudret Ozersay in Ankara.
Cavusoglu underlined the importance of a “transparent and result-oriented” approach, adding, “The situation needs to be clarified so that nobody has any question marks in their mind."
He also said the Saudi consul general was free to go to his country if he wants.
"If any Saudi diplomat wants to go to their country, they can go. There is no restriction,” Cavusoglu commented.
The top Turkish diplomat noted that the investigation at the Saudi consulate aims was to shed light on the fate of Khashoggi.
Erdogan: Some material at Saudi consulate painted over
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that some materials at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi disappeared have been painted over.
Erdogan also told reporters that Turkish police were looking into toxic materials at the diplomatic mission.
“Right now, as you aware, as a result of our intense contacts, the search process in the consulate has started. Yesterday there was an intense procedure underway until morning and it will continue.
“My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over. This will depend on the conclusion that will come out from there,” the Turkish president said.
A high-level Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that security forces had found "certain evidence" during their search of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, showing that Khashoggi was killed there.
Turkish officials maintain that Saudi agents killed and dismembered the prominent writer at the mission on October 2. Saudi Arabia, in return, describes the allegations as “baseless.”
US media outlets, the Washington Post in particular, have suggested that Saudis may soon acknowledge Khashoggi was killed in their consulate in Istanbul as part of a botched interrogation.
Cavusoglu said Saudi authorities hadn’t offered any confession to Turkey over its alleged involvement in the disappearance of the dissident writer.
“Consulates aren’t places to hold interrogations. Interrogations should take place in courts, (by) judiciary authorities,” he stressed.
Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz said he entered the consulate at around 1 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on October 2, as she accompanied him but waited outside.
The woman, who is a Turkish citizen, called police when Khashoggi did not emerge at 5 p.m., after the consulate had officially closed.
The rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page that it did not dismiss the possibility that Khashoggi's sudden disappearance was an attempt to silence the writer.
The Arab21 news website reported that the author paid a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul late last month, but was told by officials at the time to return at a later date to complete an application related to a family matter.
Khashoggi, a prominent commentator on Saudi affairs who writes for The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since September 2017, when he left Saudi Arabia over fears of the Riyadh regime’s crackdown on critical voices.
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