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Saudi delegation in Turkey for joint Riyadh-Ankara probe into journalist’s disappearance

FRANCE 24 screengrab | Protesters hold up posters of the missing journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

A Saudi delegation on Friday arrived in Turkey for a joint Riyadh-Ankara investigation into the mysterious disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, several media outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.

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The Saudi delegation’s arrival comes a day after Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said a joint working group would be set up to look into Khashoggi's disappearance.

The delegation, whose composition was not immediately clear, is expected to meet with Turkish officials in Ankara at the weekend, Turkish state media said without giving more details.

Saudi Arabia’s official news agency tweeted that “official source welcomes the response of the Republic of Turkey to the request of Saudi Arabia to form a joint team... of specialists" from both countries "to investigate the circumstances of the disappearance of Saudi citizen, Jamal Khashoggi".

In a separate English-language statement, the agency quoted an official source as expressing "appreciation" for such a move and "reaffirming full confidence" in the work of "the joint action team... to carry out their set assignments in the best of ways".

Riyadh has made little comment since Khashoggi vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, triggering unconfirmed allegations that he was killed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has challenged Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its account that Khashoggi left the consulate safely.

On Friday, the Washington Post, the newspaper for which Khashoggi worked as a columnist, said that Turkey's government has told US officials it has audio and video proof that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the consulate.

Citing anonymous officials, the newspaper said the recordings allegedly show a Saudi security team detaining the writer after entering the diplomatic facility.

The 59-year-old journalist, who was considered close to the Saudi royal family, had become a critic of the current government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old heir apparent who has introduced reforms but shown little tolerance for criticism.

Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year. As a contributor to the Washington Post, he has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince, who has also presided over a roundup of activists and businessmen.

Business leaders suspend Saudi ties

Meanwhile, a number of global business leaders seemed to be reassessing their ties with Saudi Arabia in light of the journalist’s disappearance.

British billionaire Richard Branson announced he had suspended business links with Saudi Arabia, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he might not attend a major investment conference in the country this month.

“What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government,” Branson said in a statement.

Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, says he would suspend his role as director in two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia while the investigation takes place. He also said he is putting on hold discussions about a proposed Saudi investment in space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.

Uber’s Khosrowshahi said he was “very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi”, adding: “We are following the situation closely, and unless a substantially different set of facts emerges, I won’t be attending the FII conference in Riyadh.”

Several of the world’s most prestigious news organisations, including the Financial Times, Bloomberg and CNN announced they were cancelling their media partnerships in connection with the October 23-25 event.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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