Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has welcomed Turkey to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul following the disappearance of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi who entered the mission earlier this week.
In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg, published on Friday, bin Salman said Saudi Arabia is “very keen to know what happened” to the Saudi citizen, adding “we have nothing to hide”.
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Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident critical of the country’s crown prince, entered the consulate’s premises on Tuesday in what seemed to be a routine visit to sort out paperwork, before disappearing.
“We are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises,” bin Salman told Bloomberg.
“The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do. If they ask for that, of course, we will allow them,” the 33-year-old crown prince said.
Saudi and Turkish officials have made conflicting statements on the whereabouts of Khashoggi, who has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since he fled the kingdom in September 2017.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson said on Wednesday that Khashoggi remains inside the Saudi consulate, a day after his fiancee reported he had failed to emerge from a meeting in the mission.
In contrast, a Saudi official quoted by the Reuters news agency said the journalist was “not in the consulate nor in Saudi custody”.
‘A missing voice’
Bin Salman said that the 59-year-old writer is not inside the consulate, adding that the foreign ministry is investigating to see exactly happened at the time.
“My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour. I’m not sure,” he said.
“We will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.”
On Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Ankara “for consultations” over the critic’s disappearance.
Khashoggi is a prominent columnist for the Washington Post and has long criticised the Saudi government’s reform programme under the auspices of the crown prince, commonly known as MBS.
The Post ran a blank column in its Friday edition, tweeting: “We are holding a spot for Jamal Khashoggi in Friday’s newspaper.”
— Washington Post Opinions (@PostOpinions) October 5, 2018
Khashoggi regularly called out Saudi policies towards Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen, and a crackdown on dissent and the media in the kingdom.
When asked if he is facing any charges in Saudi Arabia, bin Salman said: “Actually, we need to know where Jamal is first … If he’s in Saudi Arabia I would know that.”
Khashoggi, who once acted as an adviser to the Saudi royal family, fled Saudi Arabia last year amid a crackdown on the kingdom’s intellectuals and journalists.
He told Al Jazeera’s UpFront in March there was no room left for debate in Saudi Arabia, with citizens rounded up and jailed for questioning the government’s policies.