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Turkey summons Saudi ambassador over missing journalist

Riyadh insists Jamal Khashoggi left its consulate in Istanbul, but Turkish officials say otherwise
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi feared for his safety over criticism of Saudi policy (AFP)

Turkey has summoned Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Ankara on Thursday over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist. 

Jamal Khashoggi has been missing since he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday, according to his fiancee who was waiting for him outside the building. 

While Saudi officials have insisted Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he entered, Turkey has said he is still inside the building. 

At the meeting in Turkey's foreign ministry the Saudi ambassador said he had no information on Khashoggi's whereabouts, Turkish channel NTV reporter.

It also reported Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kiran insisted the issue "should be cleared up immediately". 

Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for the United States more than a year ago, fearing for his safety because of comments he made on current Saudi policy. 

"The information we have so far is that the Saudi journalist is still in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul," Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman, told MEE.

After an initial period of silence, Saudi Arabia said the consulate was working with Turkish authorities "to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building" in a statement published on Thursday by the state-run SPA news agency.

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Kalin said the Turkish foreign ministry and police were monitoring the situation.

"We will continue to follow the issue very closely," he said. "Our relevant offices are in contact with their counterparts."

A Saudi official responded to Kalin's comments, however, telling Reuters: "He is not in the consulate, nor in Saudi custody."

Reporters Without Borders said Khashoggi's disappearance was "extremely worrying," calling on Saudi and Turkish authorities "to do everything to ensure that this journalist reappears – free – as soon as possible".

Turkish sources and his fiancee maintained throughout Wednesday that Khashoggi was still inside the consulate.

A knowledgeable Turkish source told MEE that authorities checked surveillance cameras in the areas surrounding the consulate, but they did not find evidence of Khashoggi leaving the building.

According to the source, two private Saudi jets left from Istanbul on Wednesday, but their passengers did not include Khashoggi.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said if Saudi Arabia had detained Khashoggi, it would constitute an "enforced disappearance."

"If Saudi authorities surreptitiously detained Khashoggi it would be yet another escalation of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s reign of repression against peaceful dissidents and critics," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement. "The burden of proof is on Saudi Arabia to produce evidence for its claim that Khashoggi left the consulate alone, and that Saudi agents have not detained him."

The US State Department said it was investigating the matter.

Khashoggi's fiancee told AFP that there had been no news about the journalist. "We don't know where he is. If he had left the consulate as said by the Saudis, we would know where he is," she said. 

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