Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Markets | By Terence Owen

Bipartisan Senate Group Forces U.S. Probe of Saudi Journalist's Disappearance

Bipartisan Senate Group Forces U.S. Probe of Saudi Journalist's Disappearance

The New York Times and the Washington Post both reported that private planes carrying Saudi Arabian agents arrived in Istanbul shortly before and after Kashoggi entered the consulate and left the same day.

The Spectator reported claims that Mr Khashoggi had been offered a role as an adviser if he returned to Saudi Arabia but had declined because of "moral and religious" principles. These leaks, largely matching across Turkey's state-run media and private Erdogan-linked outlets, likely come from the country's security services as another means to pressure the kingdom over Khashoggi's October 2 disappearance.

The other six flew in on commercial flights, according to a list obtained by Sabah, which also published their names and faces. The uniform nature of these reports and their detailed nature suggest the Turkish government is feeding intelligence reports to the media for publication. No one has produced any such footage of Khashoggi leaving the consulate.

This image taken from surveillance camera shows a still image of people inside Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

A detailed Washington Post report cites flight data and security camera footage surrounding the incident. The 15 men reportedly left Turkey that same evening. TV channels broadcast videos of what they said were the men arriving at the airport and checking into hotels, as well as footage of auto traffic outside the consulate before and after Khashoggi's disappearance, including a black van with blacked out windows that the police find suspicious.

Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media on Thursday as telling journalists flying with him back home from a visit to Hungary that "we can not remain silent to such an incident".

Mr Erdogan questioned whether it was "possible for there to be no camera systems" running at the building, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reports.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy voiced doubt there would be support in Congress to approve another arms sale to Saudi Arabia - although lawmakers haven't blocked sales before.

What's next: As the two sides preserve the veneer of cooperation, Turkish investigators were widely expected to conduct a search at the consulate today after Saudi Arabia granted its permission.

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"We're monitoring this very closely, this situation very closely, and we are working closely with [the] State Department", Mattis said.

"But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing they have four or five alternatives - two very good alternatives - that would not be acceptable", Trump continued.

But the 18 others also signed the letter to send Trump a strong bipartisan message of support for a serious United States response to Khashoggi's disappearance, Senate aides said.

Mr Trump said he had spoken with the Saudis about what he called a "bad situation", but he did not disclose details of his conversations.

The US president told reporters at the White House on Thursday that blocking US arms sales to Riyadh would simply push the Saudi government to buy weapons from Russian Federation and China.

Signs of such a challenge began to emerge Monday night when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Saudis to "support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation".

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said that he told the Saudi ambassador the Khashoggi's disappearance could lead the U.S. to curtail arms sales to the kingdom.

"To me, this is just one more reason why we should be very suspect about selling arms to the Saudis", Paul, R-Ky., said in a Fox News interview. It would be a violation of worldwide law to harm, arrest or detain people at a diplomatic mission, he said, and noted that no such thing had ever happened in Turkey's history. "We have a country that's doing probably better economically than it's ever done before". He says that stepping back from arms sales to the Saudis "a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country". Reporter 2: "You had mentioned that you spoke with King Salman, so, I mean-"President Donald Trump: "Well, I do anyway, and I've always found him to be a fine man". He visited Saudi Arabia on his first global trip as president, announcing $110bn in proposed arms sales with the Gulf kingdom at the time.

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