Will the Turkish allegations of murder be a turning point in relations between the allies?
Istanbul, Turkey – Saudi Arabia will allow Turkish authorities to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Turkish foreign ministry said, a week after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a visit to the premises.
“Saudi authorities let us know that they are open to cooperation and an examination can be carried out in the consulate building,” Hami Aksoy, a foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Two Turkish prosecutors have been assigned to manage the planned search at the consulate building, state media reported.
The date and time of the search have yet to be announced.
Khashoggi, a Saudi writer critical of government policies, entered the consulate on October 2, to handle a routine paperwork issue, but he never came out, Turkish authorities say.
This still is from a security camera showing the last known seconds of Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. So where are the images of Jamal leaving? The Saudis need to prove he left alive, said Turkish Pres. Erdogan. I pray they will. pic.twitter.com/m66sPjhj3y
— Sudarsan Raghavan (@raghavanWaPo) October 9, 2018
Anonymous Turkish sources told the Reuters news agency on Saturday there was evidence he was killed inside the building in what they called a “premeditated murder”.
Saudi officials talking to state media have said that the journalist left the consulate after his visit, denying the Turkish claims.
The country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman previously said Turkish authorities were welcome to conduct a search and his country had nothing to hide.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador was summoned to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs twice in the last week over the issue.
US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he has not yet spoken with Saudi Arabian officials about the disappearance of Khashoggi.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he does not know anything about Khashoggi’s disappearance and that he would speak with Saudi officials at some point about the situation.
Since the disappearance of Khashoggi, activists and journalists have gathered by the Saudi consulate in Istanbul almost every day in the last week to rally in support of the missing writer.
Leman Yurtsever, a protest organiser and board member of the Human Rights Association in Turkey, said on Tuesday that they gathered by the diplomatic mission to defend the rights and safety of journalists.
“We do not care from which country the threat and moves against press freedom and human rights come from, be it Saudi Arabia or any other one,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Forced disappearances are cases against human rights and we are here to condemn this crime committed against a journalist,” Yurtsever said.
If we do not show any reaction, we can be the next one disappearing.
Sherif Diab, an Egyptian activist who attended a rally outside the consulate on Monday, told Al Jazeera that they gathered to find justice for Khashoggi, condemning Saudi authorities.
“People disappear in the Middle East’s authoritarian countries all the time. We see it in Syria, we see it in Egypt, we see it in other ones. However, a dissident getting lost in a foreign mission is taking it one step further,” he said.
“If we do not show any reaction, we can be the next one disappearing,” he added.
Khashoggi, a self-exiled writer for The Washington Post, was reportedly visiting the consulate to acquire the papers to prove that he was divorced.
He was planning to get married to his Turkish fiancee, who waited outside as he entered the consulate. She was the first person to report that he never came out of the building.
The consulate’s security camera visuals of Khashoggi on that day show him going inside the building but there is no footage of him coming out, according to Turkish authorities.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in reference to the case, said on Monday that Saudi officials have the responsibility to prove the whereabouts of the missing writer.
“The relevant [Saudi] authorities are responsible to prove of their claim on this matter. If he left [the consulate], you must prove this, you will prove this, even if it’s with visuals.
“Those who ask Turkish authorities where he is should first be asking ‘how did this happen?'” Erdogan said during a press briefing in Hungary.
Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras